Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach

The winter weather has me craving hearty pasta dishes. With quite a few tomatoes on hand, it was apparent that it was time for me to make some homemade pasta sauce to freeze. I decided on a pasta dish involving a bolognese sauce because of the richness of flavors and texture it has. That lead me to this recipe from Gourmet which combines bolognese with layers of spinach and bechamel sauce. The original recipe makes a full 9×12 pan of lasagna but I halved the recipe and baked my lasagna in a standard loaf pan. This prevents us from having lasagna for days on end and I like a thick & tall lasagna better than a wide & short one!

Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
recipe adapted from Gourmet

For bolognese sauce:
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices center cut bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pounds ground pork
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cups 2% milk
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach,thawed

For Ricotta filling:
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/3 cup 2% milk, divided

For assembling lasagne:
6 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Make Sauce:
Heat oil in a 12-to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook bacon, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, roughly 12 to 15 minutes. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Make ricotta filling:
Wring spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Set aside.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, milk and salt & pepper to taste.

Assemble and bake lasagne:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Spread a couple tablespoons of bolognese sauce in loaf pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parmesan. Cover with 1-2 dry noodles, leaving space in between. Spread half of ricotta filling and top with spinach; then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 tablespoon parmesan and 1-2 noodles; repeat. Top with remaining bolognese sauce, 1 tablespoon parmesan, and remaining 1-2 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.

Cover pan tightly with parchment paper and foil (or just buttered foil) and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.

Chicken Veggie Alfredo Lasagna

Quite a few fellow bloggers have been making lasagnas recently and having a hodge podge of random ingredients on hand, I figured I’d jump the bandwagon and use up the miscellaneous amounts of items in my fridge. I didn’t have any tomato/pasta sauce on hand (which is a reminder for me to make a big batch soon!) so I searched online for a quick alfredo sauce to use up the cream I had. I came across This Recipe from to use as a guide and made my adaptations outlined below (and this is not a figure friendly dish as written!):

Quick & Easy Alfredo Sauce
adapted from

1 stick butter
10 oz cream cheese (1 brick + 2 oz cream cheese)
1 tablespoon garlic salt (I used The Spice house brand)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil

In a saucepan, melt butter.
Add cream cheese and whisk to melt until smooth.
Add garlic salt and stir in heavy cream.
Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes until heated through.
Stir in fresh herbs and toss with pasta…. or use in a lasagna as I did below:

Chicken Veggie Alfredo Lasagna
original Joelen recipe
(to use up random ingredients on hand)

1 cooked chicken breast, sliced
1 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons
1 cup sliced white button mushrooms
1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
9 lasagna pasta sheets (dry)

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– In a baking dish, spread 1-2 tablespoons of prepared alfredo sauce.
– Place a layer of 3 dry lasagna pasta sheets.
– Top with half of the chicken, squash, zucchini and mushrooms.
– Sprinkle with half of the cheeses.
– Place another layer of 3 dry lasagna pasta sheets.
– Spread enough prepared alfredo sauce over pasta sheets to cover.
– Top with remaining chicken, squash, zucchini and mushrooms.
– Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheeses.
– Place top layer of 3 dry lasagna pasta sheets.
– Spread enough prepared alfredo sauce over pasta sheets to cover.
– Sprinkle with remaining cheeses.
– Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until pasta is cooked and cheese is golden brown & bubbly.

When Spinach & Cheese Comes Together…

It’s time for pasta! My hubby doesn’t really like pasta too much but if anything, he prefers baked pasta dishes such as cannelloni. I had quite a bit of spinach to use so I thought a spinach & cheese cannelloni would be in order. I served this with sliced italian sausage. The recipe I used was inspired by Sara Moulton’s version. Here’s my recipe for Spinach & Cheese Cannelloni:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half & half
salt & pepper to taste
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10 ounces baby spinach
1 12 oz container ricotta
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
8 dry or “no-boil” Lasagna noodles , boiled & cooled

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook the roux, whisking, 2 minutes. Add the half & half and whisk, bringing to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes.
Whisk in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, then cover.

To make the cannelloni:
Heat oil in a 5 to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and saute, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Stir together ricotta, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and cheese in a bowl, then stir in spinach mixture.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Spread 2/3 cup sauce in buttered baking dish.
Spread about 1/3 cup ricotta filling in a line along 1 short side of 1 pasta rectangle, then roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish.
Make 7 more cannelloni in same manner, arranging snugly in 1 layer.
Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over cannelloni and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake, covered with foil, in middle of oven until sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.
Turn on broiler. Remove foil and broil cannelloni about 5 inches from heat until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Reheat remaining sauce and serve on the side.

**I’m also submitting this to the Presto Pasta Nights blogging event! This week the event is hosted by Gay of A Scientist in the Kitchen. Be on the lookout for great pasta recipes with their roundup coming up next week!**

Layered Tortilla Lasagna

The following recipe was shared at my Chicago Chefs Dinner event. You can read more about it and get additional recipes featured at the event HERE.

Layered Tortilla Lasagna
Shared at the event by Lori
Recipe Courtesy of Rick Bayless
Cooking Live Episode: Cook Along 70-Guest: Rick Bayless
About 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups (about 6 ounces) sliced stemmed mushrooms
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, preferably fresh and cut off the cobs (about 2 ears)
8 cups (about 10 ounces) packed, stemmed spinach leaves, well rinsed but not dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tortillas (this is better with store-bought rather than homemade)
5 cups Chipotle Cascabel Salsa or substitute
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, creme fraiche or plain yogurt
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Mexican asadero-style cheese, brick, Monterey Jack or just about any melting cheese you like
15- or 16-ounce carton ricotta cheese
About 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium. When quite hot, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the corn and cook for a minute or two longer, then scrape the mixture into a bowl. Return the skillet to the heat without washing it and add the damp spinach. Cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Scoop into a colander set in the sink and use a spoon to gently press out excess moisture. Let the vegetables cool, then scoop the spinach in with the mushrooms and corn and season with the salt.

Pour a little of the remaining oil into a small skillet to lightly coat the bottom and set over medium heat until hot. One at a time, quick-fry the tortillas for a few seconds per side just to soften them. As the oil is used up, add a little more, let it heat a moment, then continue frying tortillas. Drain the tortillas in a single layer on paper towels, blotting them dry with additional towels. Cut the tortillas in half. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. In a medium-size bowl, mix the salsa with the cream or yogurt. Spread a thin layer of the salsa mixture over the bottom of the baking dish, then cover with 8 tortilla halves. Evenly top with half of the vegetables, a scant 11/2 cups of the remaining salsa mixture and 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Add another layer of 8 tortilla halves. Spread with the ricotta and another scant 11/2 cups of the salsa mixture. Top that second layer with a third round of 8 tortilla halves, the remaining vegetables, another portion of salsa mixture and 1 cup of the shredded cheese. For the final layer, evenly lay out the remaining tortillas, spread with the remaining salsa mixture (making sure to completely cover the tortillas) and evenly sprinkle on the remaining 1 cup shredded cheese.

Cover lightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbling and lightly browned. Let stand a few minutes before sprinkling with the cilantro and cutting into squares to serve to your guests on warm plates

Three cheese vegetable lasagna

This recipe was made for my 2007 Holiday Party featuring an Italian inspired menu. You can read about it and view the additional recipes I made for this event HERE.

Three cheese vegetable lasagna

2 quarts homemade pasta sauce (or jarred)

3 garlic cloved minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chopped bell peppers
2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups finely chopped baby carrots
1 pkg italian cheese blend
italian seasoning, salt & pepper to taste

1 pkg lasagna pasta sheets
Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until softened.

Add vegetables and cook until softened
.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Layer baking dish with a small amount of pasta sauce.
Add layer of dry lasagna sheet.

Add layer of pasta sauce.
Add sauted veggies.

Add shredded cheese.
Repeat layering with top layer of lasagna sheet.

Top with pasta sauce.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake covered in preheated oven for 1 hour.

Lovin’ Lasagna

My husband has declared my variations to lasagnas to be amazing… however to me, there’s always a new and exciting flavor combination I have yet to master. Maybe my use of bechamel sauces instead of traditional ricotta or even cottage cheese has something to do with it. Regardless, I avoid using ricotta or cottage cheese because it causes my lasagna to have a “watery” effect.
For dinner tonight I tried a mozzarella bechamel sauce. Normally I use a blend of parmesan and asiago, but for a twist, I used some mozzarella I had on hand. Here’s my recipe for Mozzarella Bechamel Lasagna:

1 box of dried lasagna noodles
1 quart of your favorite pasta sauce
(I always make my own bolognese sauce full of vegetables, italian sausage and beef)
3 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

Bechamel Sauce:

1/2 stick of butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
3-4 tablespoons flour
1-2 cups half & half
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Once you have your pasta ready to use, prepare your bechamel sauce.
In a saucepan, melt butter on medium heat.
When it starts to brown, sprinkle in flour to make a roux.
Stir flour until it forms a slight paste.
Slowly add half & half, whisking to combine.
When completely incorporated, add spices; stir.
Take off heat and fold in mozzarella.
Once cheese has melted and combined, you can assemble your lasagna.

In a deep baking pan, spread a little pasta sauce on the bottom.
Place a layer of dry lasagna noodles to cover.
Top noodles with mozzarella bechamel sauce.
Add a layer of pasta sauce.
Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese.
Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, ending with a mozzarella cheese layer on top.
Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

I served this with grilled italian sausage links, sliced lengthwise.

Lasagna Bolognese with Parmesan Bechamel Sauce

Lasagna Bolognese with Parmesan Bechamel Sauce

Bolognese Sauce:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large finely chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 bunch fresh & finely chopped basil
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons italian seasoning
1 pound canned or fresh tomatoes
1 jar prepared pasta sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium in a large pan.
Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Place cooked vegetable mixture in your crockpot.
In a bowl, combine ground beef, pork and italian seasoning.
Mix thoroughly and add the meat mixture to the same pan.
Brown meat, breaking up any big chunks of meat.
When browned, add to crockpot.
Add the remaining ingredients to the crockpot and stir.
Cook sauce on low for 6-8 hours.

Parmesan Bechamel Sauce:
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream or half & half
Freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup parmesan or italian blend shredded cheese

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is creamy and no longer smells floury.
Whisk in spices/seasonings.
Take off heat and slowly stir in shredded cheese.
Stir until smooth.

To assemble lasagna:
1 box no-boil lasagna pasta sheets
bolognese sauce above
parmesan bechamel sauce above
shredded mozzarella cheese
teaspoon dried italian seasoning

In the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan, grease lightly with cooking spray.
Add a tablespoon of the bolognese sauce to the bottom of the pan.
Add 1 row of no-boil pasta.
Add a layer of the bolognese sauce over pasta.
Add a layer of the bechamel sauce.
Top with shredded mozzarella.
Repeat until you have used up all the bolognese and bechamel sauce.
Top layer should end with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Sprinkle dried italian seasoning over the top cheese layer.
Bake in a 350 oven for 1 hour.

Let’s Squash This…Seriously!

Well I’m on a healthy kick and tonight I finally made a recipe using spaghetti squash! It’s a new favorite of mine and definitely a healthy alternative to standard pasta.
Averaging from 4 to 8 pounds, the cylinder shaped spaghetti squash is generally available year-round with a peak season from early fall through winter. While a true spaghetti squash is pale ivory to pale yellow in color, in the early 1990’s, an orange spaghetti squash, known as “Orangetti” was developed and this is what is frequently found in today’s supermarkets. Higher in beta carotene, the orange variety is also bit sweeter than its paler counterpart, although both have a mild flavor that is easily enhanced by the food served with or on it. A dieter’s dream, a four-ounce serving of spaghetti squash has only 37 calories!Here is the recipe for my Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bake which was inspired by my friend Cara:

2 cups cooked spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
olive oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
ground black pepper to taste
10 oz chopped, cooked & drained spinach
2 links of chicken sausage, such as spinach asiago (Optional – can omit completely)
1 cup pasta sauce
1/2 cup italian cheese blend

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– In a 9×13 pan, grease it well with cooking spray.
– Layer the cooked spaghetti squash on the bottom of the pan.
– In a pan, saute garlic, onions in olive oil and cook until softened.
– Add mushrooms and spinach, cooking until heated through.
– Add black pepper to taste.
– Layer the mushroom/spinach mixture on top of spaghetti squash in pan.
– (If using sausage – Cut the sausage links into thin slices and layer over mushroom/spinach mixture in pan.)
– Top with pasta sauce.
– Sprinkle italian cheese on top.
– Bake for 30-40 minutes; let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Lasagna with a Spinach Spin!

After closing my kitchen due to all the dining out this weekend, I’m thankful for the opportunity to make something at home. Tonight, I made a Chicken Florentine Lasagna, from Cooking Light.
Florentine refers to foods that are cooked in the style of Florence… specifically egg, meat and fish dishes that contain spinach and, most often, a creamy Mornay-style sauce.

The connection between the key ingredients and the city of Florence isn’t really clear. The closest explanation comes from an unverified story about the Italian wife of France’s Henry II, Catherine de Medici. She is credited with introducing a number of Italian foods to France including Italian ices and sherbet. Supposedly, Catherine introduced spinach to the Court of France around the year 1550. To honor her Italian heritage, she decided to call any dish containing spinach ‘Florentine‘.

Our modern definition of Florentine developed in France in the early or mid- 19th century when Spinach began turning up in fancier dishes that mostly likely already had a cream sauce component.

Here is my altered version of Chicken Florentine Lasagna:

Cooking spray
6 no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla brand)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 (10oz) pkg frozen spinach, thawed, drained & squeezed dry
3/4 cup preshredded Italian-blend cheese
1 1/2 cups pasta sauce (homemade or jarred)
salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano to taste

– In pan, saute garlic and onions in cooking oil.
– Add chicken and spinach.
– Season with spices to taste and cook until warmed through.
– Spray bottom of 8×8 pan.
– Spread 1/4 cup sauce in bottom pan.
– Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; top with chicken & spinach mixture.
– Top with some italian cheese blend and then 3/4 cup sauce.
– Repeat layers, ending with noodles.
– Spread remaining sauce over noodles.
– Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
– Uncover & top with cheese; bake an additional 5 minutes.
– Let stand 5 minutes.
– Before serving, top with mornay sauce below.

Meanwhile, prepare a garlic parmesan mornay sauce:

3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 cup half & half
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup italian cheese blend

– In small sauce pan, melt margarine/butter.
– Add flour and cook until bubbly.
– Slowly add half & half and let it come to a low boil.
– Remove from heat & stir in cheese until melted through.