What's Cookin' Today - Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna
One of my favorite indulgent appetizers is spinach artichoke dip. I absolutely love to dive into that creamy concoction of cheese, spinach and artichoke on top of some delicious crusty French bread. Sprinkle a few fresh tomatoes on top for good measure.
So I started thinking, why can't that be our main meal? At that point my Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna was officially born.
Now, this is a decadent meal. It is seriously amazing, but it is not going to fit into the light section of any recipe collection. However, it is full of healthy vegetables, made with wholesome ingredients, and full of love. (Seriously, everyone who tries it will LOVE you.)
We have some prep to do. This meal will take some time to put together. Nothing is particularly difficult, but there are a few steps. Make sure you have enough time for your prep work so you are not stressed out. No one can properly enjoy this meal if they are stressed. Most of this preparation can be done ahead of time or even the day before.
Want to impress your friends? In the food world, the preparation is called 'mise en place' (pronounced meez ɑ̃n plɑ̃s) or 'putting in place.' Now you are ready for your next dinner party.
Turn on the music, grab a glass of wine and let's get our mise en place started.
First, we are going to make the vegetable filling. It's onion time. I'm going to walk through slicing an onion, so skip on down if you know how this works.
Cut off both ends of the onion and then cut lengthwise straight down the middle. Peel off the skin and place the cut side down on your board. Make slices across the indentations. Try to make them pretty thin, about an 1/8th of an inch or so.
Melt one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add all those lovely onions. Season with salt, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon of sugar and cook for about 10 minutes.
At this point, you just need a pinch of salt and pepper. This amount of seasoning gets the water moving out of the onions and helps sweeten them up. I add that sprinkle of sugar to assist in this process. Sweetening the onions helps balance the whole dish at the end. We will season to taste in a little while.
Next add 12 ounces of frozen chopped spinach and 12 ounces of sliced or chopped artichokes, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Yes, right from the freezer. We're going to boil it all in just a minute anyway.
You can use canned artichokes if you'd like, but cook the spinach for a couple of minutes and then add them.
Sprinkle your favorite no-salt seasoning over the top of the veggie mixture. If you like garlic, stir in either chopped or minced and let it cook for about a minute. Add about 1 1/2 - 2 cups of veggie or chicken broth to the pan. It should come up about halfway but not cover the mixture completely. Turn your heat to high, stir and let the liquid boil away. This should take 5-10 minutes.
This process will turn your veggies into a flavorful filling for your lasagna. Taste and adjust your seasoning. Put it to the side, and we are going to start the sauce.
We are now going to make our cream or 'bechamel' sauce. You are absolutely able to use store bought alfredo sauce that comes in a jar or a container in the refrigerated section. You will need 2-3 of either choice. However, the taste and texture of a homemade cream sauce is so wonderful, I'd really like you to try making it at least once.
Melt one stick (1/2 cup) of butter in your pan over medium heat. As your butter is melting add 1/2 cup of flour and start whisking the two together. You will end up with a smooth paste after a minute or two. You have officially made a roux! Great job. Let your roux simmer for another minute, which cooks the flour to give it a nice flavor.
It's time to turn our roux into a sauce. Turn your heat to medium high and whisk in 8 ounces of warmed heavy cream. You can certainly substitute milk to lighten this recipe up, but the cream adds the decadence you find in a really good spinach artichoke dip.
Now slowly whisk in 3 cups of warmed milk, whatever type you typically have in your home. I tend to use 1%.
As you are whisking in your milk, keep looking at the consistency. You'll notice it starting to thicken as it cooks. It should cling to the whisk slightly, but still be thin enough to pour. If it gets too thick, add up to another cup of milk. Remove from the heat.
This is the time to season your sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. A traditional bechamel contains a dash of ground nutmeg. I personally do not like it, but most enjoy the depth of that flavor. Stir in your seasonings, taste and adjust to your preference.
This next step is optional. If you like a saucy lasagna go ahead and skip this and leave your sauce as is.
I have found an interesting strategy to change the consistency of the sauce. It acts as a sauce but becomes more airy and like an additional layer of cheese. Are you ready for an adventure?
We are going to stir two eggs into our bechamel. However, if you combine raw eggs directly with a hot sauce, you will end up with a scrambled egg concoction instead of a fluffy creamy layer of loveliness. So, let's temper together.
Break two eggs into a small bowl. Add one ladel of the sauce into the bowl and whisk together. We do not need an exact measurement here. A ladel is the easiest tool to use when we put the lasagna together, so go ahead and bring it out now.
Add the now warmed through egg mixture back into your pan of sauce and whisk together. Congratulations, you have successfully tempered your eggs and will enjoy the fluffiness in about an hour and a half or so.
We have a couple other layers to prep, but these both are quick to pull together. Put one pound of ricotta cheese, 8 ounces of mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese in a bowl and mix together. Taste this mixture and season with salt and pepper as you prefer, I add just a little bit of both. Now mix in one egg and your cheese layer is ready.
Finally slice 2-3 medium sized tomatoes. We will add some sliced tomatoes to balance out that rich creaminess with some acidic sharp tomatoes. Don't worry about the tomato liquids, they will help cook our noodles.
We are ready to start assembling our lasagna. Preheat your oven on to 400 degrees.
Set up an assembly line of your ingredients. You will need your 9X13 casserole dish. Spray it with a non-stick spray for both the ease of serving your lasagna and cleaning your pan later. In addition line up your no-boil lasagna noodles, bechamel sauce, veggies, sliced tomatoes, and cheese mixture.
I really like the texture of the no-boil noodles to traditional lasagna noodles. Traditional noodles can be mushy and gummy if not properly prepared. The no-boil noodles stay firm enough to have a nice bite to them, soak in your sauce and spices for a delicious taste and seem to end up with a better overall framework when you cut into your masterpiece.
Add two ladels of sauce to the bottom of your sprayed pan and spread it around evenly. Add four noodles on top of the sauce, and then add 1/2 of the veggie mixture.
None of this needs to be perfectly spread out or measured exactly. Lasagna is such a forgiving dish, it will all bake together and be amazing regardless.
Add four more noodles on top of the spinach and lightly press down across all four. We'll do that each time we add more noodles.
Add two ladels of sauce and spread out evenly. Add 1/2 of your cheese mixture and spread over the sauce. It is easiest to add a few spoonfuls and spread instead of one big pile.
Next layer on 1/2 of your sliced tomatoes. I like to sprinkle some no salt seasoning blend over my tomatoes, as we have not seasoned them at all to this point.
Add another four noodles and lightly press the whole shebang down. Add the rest of your cheese mixture. This time you can just pile it on and spread it out on top of the dry noodles.
Add the last of the tomatoes and more no salt seasoning blend.
We're at the home stretch. Add four more noodles and give it a real good press over the whole dish. Add three ladels of sauce and a hearty sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 cup. You're done, now just walk away.
Actually, grab a nice big piece of aluminum foil, spray the underside so nothing sticks, and cover your lasagna. Put it on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 45 minutes covered. Remove the aluminum and cook for 15 more minutes until the top is golden and the cheese and sauce are bubbling.
Here comes the most difficult part. Ready? (Although I think you already know...) Let it sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes, no nibbles please. This will allow everything to set properly. When you cut into it, especially if you went the saucy route, you will be able to serve nice lasagna pieces and not crazy loose (yet still incredibly yummy) pasta.
Look at that deliciousness! Creamy indulgence, firm noodles, earthy vegetables with that perfect tomato taste cutting through.
This should make 8-10 servings, but if you only get a few, your secret will be safe with me.
I enjoyed cooking with you, until next time!
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 12 ounce bag frozen chopped spinach
- 12 ounce bag frozen chopped or sliced artichokes, can substitute 12 ounces canned artichokes
- 2 cups broth, vegetable or chicken recommended
- 1/2 cup flour
- 8 ounces heavy cream, warmed
- 4 cups milk, warmed
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
- 3 eggs
- 2-3 tomatoes, medium
- 1 box no-boil noodles
- no salt seasoning
- salt and pepper
- For vegetable filling, melt one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions. Season with salt, pepper and sugar and cook for about 10 minutes. Add frozen spinach and artichokes to the pan, stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil and reduce until all liquid is boiled away.
- For bechamel sauce, melt 1/2 cup butter in a medium size pan over medium heat and whisk in flour. Once combined add cream and 3 cups of milk over medium high heat. Add up to one more cup of milk for 'gravy' consistency. Season to taste. For thicker sauce stir in two tempered eggs.
- For cheese filling, combine ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in one egg.
- Layer the lasagna in a 9X13 casserole dish coated with non stick spray in the following order: 2 ladels of sauce, 4 noodles, 1/2 veggie filling, 4 noodles, 2 ladels of sauce, 1/2 cheese filling, 1/2 sliced tomatoes topped with no salt seasoning, 4 noodles, rest of veggie filling, 4 noodles, rest of cheese filling, rest of tomatoes topped with no salt seasoning, 4 noodles, 3 ladels of sauce and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Press down on noodles at each layer.
- Bake covered at 400 degrees for 45 minutes and uncovered for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let set for 10 minutes before serving.