Lasagna Ricotta e Spinaci
Many dishes are often named after the pot or pan in which it is cooked, such as a tagine, tiella, or cassoulet. And so it goes for lasagna. Lasanum is the word for a Roman cooking pot and eventually the word was used to refer to the noodles which were traditionally layered in the pot. I found this recipe, posted in Italian on an Italian cooking blog, "Le ricette di Terrore Splendore." Below is my version translated in English. This lasagna is flavored with a hint of nutmeg and has delicious layers of a rich béchamel sauce, creamy spinach and ricotta, and parmesan cheese.
The first time I made this recipe was for my parent's 60th wedding anniversary party and I made fresh homemade lasagna noodles. It literally took me hours to make and was a lot of work- it was definitely a labor of love. I kept thinking about this delicious lasagna during one of my recent marathon training runs - a 20 mile run from Silver Spring, MD to Old Town Alexandria, VA. I think about food a lot when I run. And since I'm a back of the pack runner, I had hours to think about what I wanted to eat and this recipe, in particular. When I got home that evening, I wanted this lasagna but I was exhausted, and I didn't have the energy or time to make fresh homemade noodles. I decided to go the easy route and use store bought no bake noodles. It was so quick and easy to make that way, and honestly just as delicious as the first time with the homemade noodles. My advice, take the easy route and use the store bought noodles (but don't attempt this after a 20 mile run).
Makes two 8 X 8 or one 9 X 12 lasagna
For the béchamel sauce:
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
For the lasagna:
- 2 pounds fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup finely grated Parmgiana Reggiano cheese
- No bake lasagne noodles
Step 1: For the béchamel: Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk together in a saucepan to make a roux.
Step 2: Gradually add the milk to the roux, whisking continually until it comes to a simmering point and has thickened. Over a low heat, cook the sauce gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place some plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside.
Step 3: For the lasagna: Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add spinach leaves, sprinkling them with a little salt as you go. Place the pan over a medium heat, cover, and cook the spinach for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Step 4: Drain the spinach in a colander and, when it's cool enough to handle, squeeze it in your hands to get rid of every last drop of liquid
Step 5: Chop the spinach finely and place in a bowl. Add the ricotta. Add the nutmeg and season with salt. Mix together thoroughly.
Step 6: To assemble the lasagna: Spread a quarter of the bechamel sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Place sheets of no bake pasta on top of this and on top of that, add a third of the spinach-ricotta mixture, followed by the béchamel again and then 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Continuing layering by repeating the whole process (i.e., noodles, spinach-ricotta mixure, bechamel sauce, and parmesan cheese). You should finish with a layer of pasta, béchamel sauce, and the remaining parmesan.
Step 7: Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, until the top is bubbling. Continue to bake uncovered for 10 minutes until the top is golden. Remove it from the oven and let it settle for about 10 minutes before serving.