Quick Lasagna

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last night for dinner I made a version of my "Quick" Lasagna. Quick is relative term and in this case, quick means quick compared to the other lasagnas that I have made, not quick like Spaghetti con Olio e Aglio quick (that's spaghetti with olive oil and garlic).

Anyhow, I first made this lasagna a few months back using frozen spinach and, gasp, jarred tomato sauce. I know, jarred tomato sauce. You would think that would be against my religion. Even though though tomato sauce is super quick and easy to make, I do use it from time to time in dishes, like lasagna or my eggplant gratins, where it is just one component of a dish and I've got other things to cook, dice, stir and assemble. I use good jarred tomato sauce when I've got enough going on in the kitchen and when quite frankly, I don't want to clean yet another pot. Anyway, back to the lasagna. I made it a while back with frozen spinach, that good old jar of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella and it was great - hearty, not too cheesey and not too decadent. Since I had lasagna sheets leftover I decided to make it again but this time I swapped out the frozen spinach for fresh chard and the fresh mozzarella for the regular old rubbery pizza topping kind, and it was equally good. It's certainly not earth shattering amazing nor is it amazingly gourmet but it is hearty and filling and makes good leftovers. I served the lasagna with a radicchio and endive salad tossed with a sweet lemon balsamic and a touch of olive oil. These bitter greens along with a crusty bread roll were the perfect accompaniment to this warming cold-weather meal.

Quick Spinach Lasagna

Serves 6

This lasagna recipe is very basic and very versatile. Certainly you can make your own tomato sauce, but the point here is quick and easy and a good basic store bought sauce lends a hand to that.

9 sheets dried lasagna noodles (or enough to cover 3 layers of your dish)
2 ten-ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed, drained or 2 bunches fresh spinach, cooked, drained
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, divided
pinch red pepper flakes
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme or other herbs (optional)
1 twenty-five ounce jar store bought tomato sauce
1 ball fresh or regular mozzarella cheese, sliced
fresh ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt. Cook the lasagna noodles 1 minute shy of the instructed cooking time. Remove from the water and place on plate unstacked to cool. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the ricotta cheese, half of the Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, herbs and pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spoon about a 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch casserole dish. Place down a layer of the lasagna noodles. Top the lasagna noodles with about half of the ricotta cheese mixture and a layer of the mozzarella slices. Top the mozzarella with half of the spinach and spread evenly on top. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the spinach layer and top with approximately 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Then top with another layer of the lasagna noodles and repeat the same process; the ricotta mixture, the mozzarella cheese, the spinach and the tomato sauce; then top with the lasagna noodles and another half cup of tomato sauce. Top the lasagna with the reserved Parmesan cheese. (The lasagna can be made up to this point one day ahead of time, and kept covered in the refrigerator. Add 15 minutes to the first cooking time if the lasagna is going from the fridge to the oven.)

Bake the lasagna at 375 degrees F on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes, or until the top is brown and the sides are bubbling. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Variation: Add or substitute other dark greens for the spinach.


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