The Best Spinach Lasagna
This recipe is a favorite my family and friends like for me to cook for them. One story behind this recipe is that one friend of mine could not get her kids to eat spinach at all. So, I cooked this lasagna dish for her and her family. The next day, she told me her children ate the entire lasagna, spinach and all! There is more than one way to keep children eating healthy.
Lasagna is one of Italy's major food staples, next to pizza. "Lasagna" actually comes from the Greek work "laganum", which means dish or bowl. Italians used this Greek dish to make "lasagna" (originating in the early 1300s). Throughout centuries, lasagna has been, and remained, one of the most popular dishes.
A tip for cutting the tomatoes, be sure to use a very sharp knife. As you cut the tomatoes, slide the knife across them and allow gravity to bring the knife down (with a little of your help). If you have to press down on the tomato, then the knife being used is not sharp enough. Pressing down on the tomato will cause excessive juice to escape from the tomato. The juice from the tomatoes is better if kept inside the tomato so that it will cook out into the sauce. Before cutting into a tomato, I always sharpen my knife and then wipe off the blade with a rag (being careful not to cut myself, but luckily, I keep a stock pile of super glue just in case). The last time I used this recipe, I cut all 24 Roma tomatoes and put them in the pot. Once I finished cutting them, there was only less than 1/8 teaspoon of tomato juice on the cutting board. Thus making for more tomato juice going into the recipe as intended.
If you'd like to make your own Ricotta cheese, it's actually a fairly simple process. All you have to do is pour a half gallon of whole milk into a fairly large pot. Add one cup heavy cream, stir and bring to a temperature between 160 degrees and 185 degrees Fahrenheit, but do not allow the mixture to boil. Once it has reached this temperature, remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of white vinegar. Stir for about 30 seconds, and the mixture will start to curdle. Once it starts to curdle, add a half teaspoon of salt, and stir for just under a minute. Cover the pot, and allow to sit for about two hours at room temperature. After about two hours, you'll use a piece of cheese cloth to strain the mixture. You will need a bowl for the liquid to pour into. One way to make this easy is to place the cheese cloth inside a colander or bowl shaped object with slots in it. Slowly pour the mixture over the cheese cloth. The liquid will flow through the cheese cloth, while the curds will stay on top of the cheese cloth. Once finished with pouring the mixture over the cheese cloth, grab the corners of the cloth and bring together over the top of the curds and pull tightly. Tie off the corners, or use a rubber band or bread tie. Occasionally, over a 30 minute period, squeeze the cheese cloth to allow excess whey to flow into the bowl with rest of the whey. You can use the whey for other recipes of cheeses as well. Once you have all of the whey squeezed out of the cheese cloth, your ricotta cheese is ready to be used.
Don't forget the garlic butter toast or cheese bread sticks!
- 3 - 8oz cans Tomato Paste
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 13 to 14 cloves Garlic, minced
- 24 Roma Tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons Sea Salt
- 2 tablespoons Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- 1 package Oregano, fresh
- 1 package Thyme, fresh
- 1 package Basil, fresh
- 1 White Onion, medium to large size
- 3 pounds Ground Beef
- 48 ounces Ricotta Cheese
- 8 ounces Parmesan Cheese, shredded
- 1 box Lasagna Noodles
- 1 package Baby Spinach, fresh
- 8 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
- To start, put a pot of water on the stove to boil (I generally use a 6 quart stew pot). While the water is reaching boiling temperature, start preparing the tomatoes, thyme, onion, garlic, oregano, and basil.
- To prepare the ingredients for the meat sauce, first wash the tomatoes under cold running water. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise. Turn each half with the flat part facing down on the cutting board, then cut in thirds lengthwise. Next, turn all three cut pieces 90 degrees and cut pieces about 1/2 inch wide. As you cut the tomatoes, put into pot (I used a 12 quart granite stew pot).
- Peel, and mince, the garlic cloves and onion, and add to tomatoes. Place the stew pot on stove under medium-high heat and stir occasionally.
- Pull off the leaves of the thyme, basil, and oregano. The best way to pull the leaves of the thyme is to grab the stem at the top, and pull downward (against the grain sort of speak). Mince these three ingredients, and add to pot of tomatoes and garlic and stir.
- If the pot of water is boiling at this time, add olive oil and stir. Then add the noodles. If the water is boiling before this point, go ahead and add the oil and noodles when the water starts boiling.
- In a skillet, cook the ground beef until slightly brown. You should not see any pink in the meat. Once the ground beef is finished cooking, add to the pot of tomatoes and stir.
- To the meat sauce, add the tomato paste and stir well. Then add salt and pepper to your taste. If the mixture tastes bland, add a little bit more salt to bring out the flavor and allow to slightly simmer.
- Once the noodles are done, dump the noodles into a colander that is placed in the sink and run cold water over the noodles to stop the cooking process.
- Place the noodles into a 9 x 13 cake pan, overlapping each noodle by an 1/8 inch (one noodle thick and covering the bottom of the pan).
- Spread Ricotta cheese over the first layer of noodles.
- Spread a layer of meat sauce over the Ricotta cheese.
- Spread a layer of baby spinach over the meat sauce.
- Add another layer of noodles. Repeat steps 10 through 12 and add another layer of noodles (this last layer of noodles will be the top).
- Place lasagna into oven and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 10 minutes. After 10 minutes has passed, take the lasagne out of the oven and sprinkle the shredded Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses over the top layer of noodles. Place the lasagne back into the oven and back for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly melted.
- Once the cheese is slightly melted, take the lasagna out of the oven and serve.
|Serving size: 1 - 3"x3" square|
|Calories from Fat||252|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 28 g||43%|
|Saturated fat 15 g||75%|
|Unsaturated fat 7 g|
|Carbohydrates 45 g||15%|
|Sugar 8 g|
|Fiber 8 g||32%|
|Protein 49 g||98%|
|Cholesterol 133 mg||44%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|