Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Saturday 20 April |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Chiara Bosatta
Aleteia logo
Lifestyle
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Spinach Lasagna: This recipe may make you love cooking

Spinach Lasagna

lorenzo_graph | Shutterstock | Altered by Aleteia

John Touhey - published on 03/19/24

Do you feel like a fraud in the kitchen? Don't be silly! This week we encourage you to relax and give our Spinach Lasagna recipe a try.

Inexperienced cooks often feel like frauds in the kitchen. At least that is how it was with me for much of my life. My mother was a wonderful cook, and for as long as I was at home there was no need for me to do much cooking other than of the “fend for yourself” variety.

The first thing I did when I moved out on my own was to buy a cookbook. Unfortunately, it was full of exotic terms like braising, deglazing, and the dreaded soufflé. My head spun. What exactly was the difference between frying and sauteing? Intimidated, I stuck to the simplest recipes and stuck to the instructions exactly. Consequently, I became quite skilled at making mashed potatoes and hamburgers, but not much else.

Once in a while, I would try to branch out and try new things, but halfway through the recipe my confidence would falter. My fried eggplant always seemed to come out looking more like Greasy Eggplant Mush.

Perfection is overrated

The arrival of online platforms like YouTube should have made my life easier – but cooking videos often left me feeling more intimidated than ever. In a video, of course, every dice and slice appear perfect, and the final dish always comes out looking like something a five-star restaurant would proudly serve. We seldom stop to wonder how many takes it took to make that perfect-looking dish.

Over time, however, and quite by surprise, I began to love cooking. Little by little, I began to understand that preparing a meal for my family was not some regimented formula that I had to perfect, but an act of self-expression and love.

Cooking even came to be fun, once I realized that I didn’t have to slavishly follow a recipe but could relax and even add my own twists and innovations. Every try may not have turned out perfectly, and I still make lots of mistakes, but even they are usually edible. And if disaster does strike, I can always make a last-minute pizza run.  

Give it a go

So, even if you feel like a culinary fraud, I encourage you to give this Spinach Lasagna recipe a try. (Or one of the other recipes in our Meatless Meal Planner for Lent.) It is fun to make and quite tasty, though it does take some time and preparation. You’ll need about an hour and forty-five minutes from start to finish, but a lot of that time is simply waiting for the lasagna to bake in the oven.

Finally, don’t feel like you have to produce a perfect lasagna the first time, or have a chef-level grasp of the difference between dicing and mincing in order to get started. Cutting your spinach into tiny pieces will suffice. After years of cooking and even with the aid of YouTube, I’m still not entirely clear on the difference between frying and sautéing. I have decided that sautéing is “frying with less oil while trying to look French,” and that seems to work just fine for me.

Note: We will first need a simple white sauce for this recipe, so we will begin with that …

SIMPLE WHITE SAUCE

A white sauce (a.k.a. béchamel) is something quite handy to have in your culinary toolkit, as it has many uses. This is a basic white sauce recipe. Remember, it is going inside the lasagna, so if your white sauce turns out a bit lumpy, no one will see it!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/8 cup of flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 oz mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over a medium-low flame. Add flour and whisk until it forms a “blond” roux. (If it starts looking more brown than blond, turn down the heat.) Slowly add milk, continuing to whisk to prevent lumps until the sauce comes to a light boil. Add a dash of salt and pepper. (You don’t want the sauce to be too thick. Try to end up with something that is the consistency of a thick milk shake — or until the sauce sticks to the back of a metal spoon. Slowly add more milk until it reaches the desired consistency.) Finally, remove from heat, stir in the mozzarella and Romano cheese and set aside.

SPINACH LASAGNA

We will bake our lasagna in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. That will make enough lasagna to comfortably feed 6 people. You can use a larger or smaller pan depending on the number of people you need to feed, adjusting amount of ingredients accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 12 oz cottage cheese
  • 3 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 shallot (or small onion)
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, salt and pepper
  • white sauce

Directions: Prepare white sauce (see recipe above).

Wash and drain spinach well. Chop the spinach (or use food processor), dice the shallot, deseed and dice red pepper, mince garlic. Sauté (or gently fry!) these ingredients in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper until mixture is aromatic and the spinach has been reduced but is not mushy. If there is a lot of excess liquid, drain that out. Set aside in bowl.

Boil a large pot of water. When water reaches a hard boil, salt the water with two tablespoons of salt and add lasagna noodles, making sure they do not stick together. Will take about 8 to 10 minutes for them to reach an al dente (tender but firm) state. Undercooked noodles are preferable to overcooked ones, since we will also be baking them.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While noodles are boiling, in a large bowl mix 16 oz ricotta cheese, 12 oz of cottage cheese, an egg, and ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg. You may use just ricotta cheese or just cottage cheese if you prefer. I mix the two to keep the lasagna flavorful but not too heavy. Once the cheese and egg are thoroughly mixed, add in the spinach mixture and a ¼ cup Romano cheese and stir until thoroughly incorporated.

Drain the noodles.

Add a thin layer of white sauce to the bottom of your baking pan. Place a layer of three noodles atop the white sauce. Spread a layer of your spinach-cheese layer atop this, then a layer of white sauce. Add another layer of three noodles. Repeat until you have four layers of noodles. (You can add more layers, but I find more than 4 or 5 layers to be overkill.)

If you find the above direction confusing, this handy article shows you how to layer lasagna.

Atop the final layer of noodles, place the remaining spinach-cheese mixture, a little bit of white sauce, and a little shredded mozzarella and Parmesan or Romano cheese. Smooth down with a spatula.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes until the top is slightly golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for ten minutes before serving.

Good luck with your cooking! Let us know how it goes in the comments below.

Tags:
FamilyFoodLent
Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Aleteia-Pilgrimage-300×250-1.png
Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.