Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 20B: Spinach, Cheese, and Tomato Lasagna

As I said in the earlier post, there are a lot of steps to this dish!  Overall I thought everything came out great.   I'm pretty sure everyone else enjoyed it too --  I didn't hear any complaints at the table!  The sauce was good, but very light.  I think next time I'll use my own tomato sauce that's heavier on the seasoning, and a bit heartier.  If using canned tomatoes as I did, I would suggest straining off the juices.   I didn't, and my sauce was a bit runny.  Also, I don't own a food mill, so I used my submersible blender to process the tomatoes.  The recipe says it serves 6, and let me warn you they are very big servings!

Rick and Heather joined us for dinner

I forgot to take pictures before everyone was served.  Messy, but good!

Spinach, Cheese, and Tomato Lasagna
The Greens Cook Book
Yield:  Serves 6

2 recipes Egg Pasta
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, fresh, if possible
2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled, seeded, chopped.
3 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh marjoram or oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried
Salt and pepper
Sugar, if necessary
Red wine vinegar

     Prepare the pasta dough and set it aside to rest.  Grate or slice the cheese; then prepare the tomato sauce and spinach-cheese filling.
     Heat the oil in a wide skillet, add the onion, garlic, and marjoram or oregano, and saute until the onion is transparent and soft.  Season with salt; then add the tomatoes and the wine.  Cook slowly until the sauce is thickened.  If the tomatoes are overly tart, correct the acidity by adding a pinch or two of sugar.  Once they are cooked, pass them through a food mill; then season to taste with a few drops of vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, and more salt if needed.

The Spinach-Cheese Filling
3 small or 2 large bunches spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg
2 cups ricotta
2 eggs
1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp lemon peel, minced or grated

     Remove the stems from the spinach; discard any bruised or yellow leaves.  Wash the spinach well in two changes of water.  Roughly chop the leaves into small pieces about an inch square.  In a wide pan, heat the oil and saute the onion for several minutes; then add half the garlic, the spinach leaves, and a sprinkling of salt.  Cook until the spinach is wilted; then remove it to a bowl and combine with the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, the remaining garlic, and the parsley and lemon peel.  Season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a scraping or two of nutmeg.

The Bechamel
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg

     Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, and cook over a low flame for 2 to 3 minute, stirring continuously.  Scald the milk in a separate pan; then pour it all at once into the flour-butter mixture, whisking as you do so.  Season with salt, pepper, and a scraping of nutmeg, and continue to cook the sauce for 15 minutes over low heat, giving it an occasional stir.

Assembling the Lasagna
     Roll out the pasta dough to the thinnest setting, and cut the final strips into pieces that will fit your baking pan.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt.  Have ready a large bowl of cold water.  Cook several pieces of dough at a time.  Pull them out when they rise to the surface, and put them in the cold water to cool; then spread them on a kitchen towel.  Continue cooking until all are done.
     Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9x13 baking dish and spread half the bechamel over the bottom.  Piece together several strips of the pasta so that they cover the bottom and hang over the edges of the baking dish.  (Later they will be folded over the top to make a package, effectively sealing in the fillings.)
     Spread half the tomato sauce over this first layer of pasta and cover it with half the mozzarella.  Put down another layer of pasta and cover these with half the spinach-cheese filling.  Continue the sequence with more pasta, tomato and mozzarella, pasta and spinach-cheese filling.  Finish by laying one or two strips of pasta down the center and folding the overhanging edges over the top.  Cover with the remaining bechamel sauce.
     Cover the lasagna with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking another 15 minutes, or until the top is puffed and browned.  Let the lasagna rest for a few minutes; then cut it into pieces and serve.  A chilled Beaujolais or a Vin Gris would go well with this.

Note:  Lasagna can also be made using commercial fresh pasta sheets, which will be thicker than those you make at home.  These commercial pasta sheets often come in pieces about 9x13 inches, each weighing about 4 ounces; 1 1/2 pounds should be more than enough.  Use 4 or 5 sheets and do not try to overlap the bottom layer as in the basic recipe.  Though fresh pasta makers often say the lasagna sheets need not be precooked, the lasagna will be lighter and moister if they are.

Oh, and a note for those who are keeping track:  I am counting this as a two recipe day so I am once again on track to complete 50 recipes in 50 days!


  1. I agree that the sauce was too thin. But the flavors were so good that I'm not willing to offer to return the leftovers that you sent home with me so that the boys can have it for dinner tonight. I'm afraid that if the sauce were thicker, the tomato flavor would be stronger and upset the overall flavor which really was delicious.

  2. And look at those handsome men! We are so lucky.

  3. Yes, the serving size was big, but that certainly didn't slow me down! A thicker sauce would make it easier to eat, but again, I managed quite well, thank you! It was delicious and fun to share a meal with friends.