I can’t help but love lasagna with all its gooey richness. The flavor of the sauce melds with the pasta and mingles with the cheeses and fillings, the cheese stretches from the pan to the plate as you serve it, and the sides start to collapse slightly from the weight of the hot fillings. It’s a feast for the eyes and a comfort food, through and through.
If I were asked to come up with a top ten list of healthy meals, lasagna wouldn’t make the list, but there are some simple ways to make it healthier. Omit fatty meat, use part-skim cheeses, plenty of vegetables and fresh herbs, and whole wheat lasagna, and you can turn this into a relatively healthy meal to enjoy as an occasional treat. Using spinach and basil is our favorite way to make lasagna, and for this one I snipped a cup of basil leaves off the plants growing in the AeroGarden I’ve been testing and reviewing. This time we put Marseille, Genovese, and Napolitano basils into the layers, scattering it around with the spinach. The sauce recipe is from Michael’s mom, and it’s our favorite all-purpose pasta sauce because it tastes great and is easy to make. You can even make it a couple days ahead for faster prep on lasagna day.
We make lasagna only two or three times a year because we consider it a treat rather than a regular meal. We usually assemble two lasagnas at once and then bake one and freeze the other for an emergency meal, which is very handy for our busy family. We have also made double recipes and assembled it in a large lasagna or roasting pan to feed a crowd.
The health benefits of spinach are generally well-known, but basil is also a great source of nutrients. Basil provides vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A and phosphorus, and it also has high concentrations of carotenoids such as beta carotene. So enjoy your basil and spinach together! If you plan to use frozen spinach, make sure it is fully thawed and drain it well in a colander, pressing the spinach with your hand to squeeze out the water. Then put the damp spinach on a white paper towel and press again to make sure the spinach as as dry as possible. Wet spinach makes soggy lasagna!
This lasagna recipe is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly event created by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. This week our host is Vani of Batasari. Make sure you check out the round-up on the 14th!
6 to 8-quart pot or slow-cooker
9×13 baking dish, lightly coated with cooking spray
medium mixing bowl
1 recipe Ann’s Spaghetti Sauce
1 (16-ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles
32 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for sprinkling on top
10 ounces fresh baby spinach or frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1. In the pot or slow-cooker, prepare the spaghetti sauce per directions.
2. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
3. In the medium mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan.
4. Spread a ladle or two of the prepared sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Lay down a row of lasagna noodles, then spread about 1/3 of the cheese mixture. It doesn’t have to look pretty, just make sure that it is evenly distributed, even if it’s in clumps. Add 1/2 of the spinach and basil leaves.
5. Add about 1/3 of the remaining sauce, then more noodles, 1/2 of the remaining cheese mixture, and the rest of the spinach and basil.
6. Add another 1/3 of the sauce, more noodles, and the rest of the cheese mixture. Spread the remaining sauce on top then top with the shredded mozzarella and some more parmesan.
7. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the lasagna is cooked all the way through and the top is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
To freeze an assembled lasagna, press a layer of plastic wrap down on the top cheese layer, then cover the whole pan in foil. Store in freezer for up to 1 month.
To cook frozen lasagna, preheat oven to 350° F. Remove the foil and plastic wrap and bake for about 45 minutes, until the lasagna is cooked all the way through and the cheese on top is golden brown and bubbly.
[An original post from Andrea Meyers: making life delicious. All images and text copyrighted, All Rights Reserved.]
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