Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sweet Sausage + Spinach Lasagna

I've always thought that Garfield's love of lasagna is completely spot on. I don't know that there has ever been a time in my life where someone's proposed lasagna for dinner and I've been unhappy about it. Its like ice cream...there are so many variations that I'm not sure I could get tired of it. When our nephew, Parker, was born, I offered to make Joshua and Liz dinner to supplement the inevitably mediocre meals that come with parenthood, like lukewarm Ramen Noodles and Kraft Macaroni + Cheese. For my first delivery, lasagna was the meal of choice.

But then I went to see "We Bought A Zoo" with my little sister, Alyssa. Not the best movie I've ever seen but at least Scarlet Johansson branched out and chose a role where she was more than a tawdry sex symbol. Turns out, she's a pretty decent actress. Anyway, the movie is about a handsome widower, Benjamin, who uproots his children after his wife's death and decides to buy a zoo. A little rash, if you ask me, but then my hubby is alive. Because words are never adequate, flowers and food always seem to arrive in the wake of death. As Benjamin drops his kids off at school, he is greeted by a mom with a lasagna. And even though it is apparent he does not want it, he takes it home and dutifully places it in his fridge -- with a dozen others. His adorable seven year old daughter cheerfully points out that at some point they're going to have to eat them or maybe throw them away.

Oh no! Sitting in the movie theater, I began to second guess my meal choice. Surely, other people are dropping off food for Joshua and Liz to help out as they navigate parenting. Perhaps they, too, have been inundated with lasagna. What if they're up to their eye balls in tomatoes and ricotta? Since I'd already purchased the ingredients, I let my doubts take a back burner and began.

Thankfully, my fears were abated when I got an unsolicited text from Joshua that simply said: "lasagna=bangin"

Sweet Sausage + Spinach Lasagna
Kelley Gondring

The great thing about making lasagna is that you can make it with store bought products or entirely from scratch, time permitting. This particular recipe is good for a week night, as I make neither the noodles nor the sauce from scratch. However, I do add add a little onion, carrot, basil and oregano to canned pasta sauce to make it taste fresher. If time is really tight, feel free to skip that step.

Preheat oven 400ยบ

Fill large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a dash of salt and a splash of olive oil (the oil will help the noodles from sticking together). Once water is boiling, add:
12 lasagna noodles
Cook about 15 minutes or until al dente. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Lay noodles flat on clean kitchen towels. Cover.

While pasta is cooking, pour:
2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce
into a large mixing bowl.

Into a small skillet, empty:
1 16 ounce package sweet Italian sausage
Cook on medium-high heat about 10 minutes or until no longer pink. I like to use a potato smasher to break up the sausage into small, even pieces (hat tip, husband!). Transfer cooked sausage into the bowl of tomato sauce.
In the same skillet, heat:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Once oil gets hot, add:
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Saute on low-medium heat about 10 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Transfer to bowl of pasta sauce. Thoroughly combine all ingredients.
Cheese Filling
In a large mixing bowl combine:
16 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
4 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Thoroughly mix until consistency is smooth.
Measure out 1 1/2 cups of mixture and place in a small bowl. Set this aside for the moment.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat
2 packages frozen spinach
until thawed but not hot. Squeeze out excess water (there will be a lot!) and add drained spinach to the large bowl. Stir in spinach so that it's evenly distributed.

Cheese Topping
Grab the small bowl containing the ricotta mixture and add:
1/4 cup of whole milk
Mix until the milk is fully incorporated.

Putting It Together
Spread 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 inch casserole dish. Place four lasagna noodles side by side on top of the sauce. Pour and spread one third of the sauce on top of the noodles. Pour and spread one third of the cheese filling on top of the sauce. Repeat twice. Cover with remaining four lasagna noodles. Pour cheese topping over top and spread evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes.
Eat up!

No comments:

Post a Comment