I don’t remember where I first saw this tip but they really do work very well. I do remember the chef saying, “after all, they’re just thin sheets of pasta”. These wraps are 8″ square.I peeled them off two at a time for the first layers but tried to separate them better when it looked as though they would run short. Setting the tray outside to take advantage of the evening chill to help set the lasagna, it cooled enough by bed time to slice cleanly. I lost count as it was assembled but I think there are four layers. It went sauce – wrap -sauce -spinach, ricotta, and Parmesan mix – crumbled sausage – wrap, repeated until I ran out of wraps. It finished with a generous layer of shredded mozzarella atop the last of the ricotta mix and sausage.It baked at 350 for nearly an hour, covered. I took the lid off for the last 10-15 minutes.
I usually make this with ricotta as a base for shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, and provolone but decided to go with a bechamel this time just to see how it would work. I’ve been seeing the basic white sauce used in a few different lasagnas prepared on one of my TV cooking shows. I made one with 4 cups of milk and stirred the cheeses into that and added the ricotta just for the hell of it. Made a ton of cheese sauce thinking I’d make two pans but my lasagna noodle count was off so I packed one pan, slightly larger than my usual, as full as I could. Still had leftover cheese sauce.Freshly made lasagna, still warm from the oven, will slump all over the plate. I let mine rest for a half hour but it still oozed all over. Here’s a nice slice that’s firmed up overnight in the fridge. The green is chopped spinach that went into the white sauce. The tomato sauce has sausage in it but this would be just fine without any meat added if that’s your preference.Even just the one pan is way too much for the two of us so I divide it like so and slide it into the big freezer so I can vacuum seal the portions for later. They’ll keep a long time like that.
I thought about making a lasagna with a bechamel sauce to carry the cheese but went with ricotta instead. Why mess with a good thing? I mixed a couple of eggs with the ricotta, a package of chopped spinach, a little shredded mozzarella, and a fair handful of Parmesan. The tomato sauce was from a jar I canned last summer, with some crumbled and browned Italian sausage. I had a loaf of fresh mozzarella to layer over the top. Worked out nicely, had a good flavor, and this time I managed to wait a little while before I plated a serving so it held together better than my usual.We bought a set of these individual sized casseroles so I made a Mrs J sized portion for her. I like the looks of the dishes and I’m going to do a mac & cheese in them one of these days.
This week I’m having fun with unusual recipes in unusual gadgets. Here’s one from December 2012:
This is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, one day, in our morning meeting – which was actually an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.
So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:
Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna
- 1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 28 oz canned tomato sauce
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
- 1 egg
- 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)
Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.
Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.
In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).
Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.
I may be in trouble for calling this lasagna because no pasta is involved, it uses corn tortillas between layers of refried beans, salsa, beef, and cheese. Cook a pound of ground beef down with minced peppers and onions and season with taco spices and add a can of tomato bits with green chilies. Add chicken stock to a couple of cans of rinsed pinto beans and mash them down over medium heat. The beans play much the same role as ricotta in an Italian lasagna, spread the refried beans over warmed corn tacos, spoon on your favorite salsa, then spread the beef atop that, and then cheese. I used cheddar but Monterey jack would work, or a combination. Repeat the layering until you run out of room in your casserole. Any kind of luck your makings will run out the same time as the room in the dish.
I said last post that I hadn’t been cooking anything new and exciting. This lasagna is neither of those things but it does make for a pretty picture. You need to allow for the fact that this slice is firm and nicely layered only because it is fresh out of the fridge and was cut out of the pan with a sharp knife. I looked at the piece I had for supper last night and decided against getting a photo because it was all hot a gooey and slumping all over the plate despite having plenty of time to rest out of the oven.
I sort of followed a recipe for this but I didn’t really need to. The cheese layers are ricotta, grated Romano, shredded mozzarella, a couple of eggs, a package of chopped spinach, and some garlic powder with salt and black pepper. It is layered with a tomato sauce that has sausage and ground beef, lots more garlic and a finely diced onion. The sauce was from the garden and laden with plenty of basil and oregano. That top layer isn’t pasta, it’s fresh mozzarella that was sliced and laid atop the last layer of meatsauce
I made this with the “no boil” pasta that’s been in the cupboard for a spell. It works pretty well, nothing you will brag about to your mother but it’s not a bad thing.The noodles are thin, and they don’t bulk up too much more. They don’t give the kind of body that the regular noodles do. Damned easy to layer them into the dish.Here’s a little better angle on the layers.
Nothing special about the recipe, ricotta and mozzarella with an egg and chopped spinach for the cheese layer. The sauce was my awesome sauce with my own Italian sausage. That thick top layer of cheese is about half and half provolone and mozzarella. I expect this will be better tomorrow.