Friday, March 11, 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne


The culinary aspect of our week didn’t unfold quite as planned… Despite stocking the fridge for the evenings ahead, anticipating that I’d be working late, I was actually able to join the kids for dinner most nights. Shrove Tuesday was a pleasant surprise and so we all decided pancakes were in order. I wish I’d been organized enough to put together Jen’s delicious potato pancakes from a week or two ago but instead we just had our regular ones, with fruit and chocolate chips.

Then the boys both came down with tummy bugs on Wednesday so they skipped the spinach ricotta lasagna and had chicken noodle soup and crackers. Maddie tried the lasagna but then I watched in awe (and somewhat admiration for her focus) as she methodically picked through and painstakingly, like the highly skilled surgeon that she is destined to become, removed every stringy spinachy part with huge disdain and carefully stacked them into a green mini-mountain at the side of her bowl. God forbid if some veggies accidentally made their way into her by way of a bite of pasta. I couldn’t even taste them because of the tanginess of the ricotta, but Maddie assured me that that’s because I’m an adult and basically immune to vegetables. Maybe she’s right. I’m hoping that the boys might take some leftovers to school for lunch on Thursday or Friday because it was nice and light and probably still good eaten cold… less cheese than we’re used to and, since I skipped the béchamel sauce that the recipe called for, not as rich as advertised.


So the bottom line is that I don’t have any reviews on the black bean soup yet since no one has eaten it and I fear it may end up down the drain… by my own hand, no less, if only to avoid giving them all food poisoning because it has sat in the fridge too long. Lesson learned: good to be prepared but life happens and we can’t guarantee that our evenings will be as expected.
Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne
Adapted from Fine Cooking
(I halved the recipe to serve 4)
1-1/2 lb. (about 3 cups) whole milk ricotta
2 lb. fresh spinach, or 2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tbsp butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

To assemble:
3/4 lb. fresh lasagne noodles (store-bought or homemade)
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Drain the ricotta in a sieve set over a bowl for 1 hour, or longer if the ricotta is very wet.
If using fresh spinach, stem and rinse it well; don’t dry the leaves. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, cook the spinach until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well, squeeze out the excess moisture, and chop finely. If using thawed frozen spinach, squeeze it dry.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the spinach and toss it for 1 or 2 minutes to coat it with the butter. Transfer the spinach mixture to a bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Add the ricotta, Parmigiano, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix well.
I used oven-ready noodles so preparation was a no-brainer, but if you're using fresh, boil the noodles until they're ready (3 to 5 minutes) and then slide them into ice water to stop the cooking.

Assemble the lasagne:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Choose a baking dish that’s about 9x12 inches and 3 inches deep, or about 10x14 inches and 2 inches deep. Start layering, with 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of cooked noodles. With a spatula, spread one-third of the spinach and ricotta filling over the first layer of noodles. Then spread one-third of the remaining tomato sauce and one-third of the cream sauce over the filling. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of the Parmigiano on top. Add a new layer of noodles, overlapping them slightly, and repeat the layers as instructed above, using all of the filling and ending with the Parmigiano, to make a total of three layers (you may not need all the pasta).

Put the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake until heated through and bubbling at the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Rest of the Week

March 8 Shrove Tuesday—pancakes

March 9 Spinach Ricotta Lasagna

March 10 Everybody pulled together leftovers and made their own thing while I was at Maddie's spring concert.

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