SPINACH LASAGNE WITH MEAT SAUCE
Lasagne is a wonderful dish for easy entertaining. You can make it ahead of time, even the day before, hence hassle-free dining. If you’re a small family and prefer to keep the lasagne for yourself, you can freeze it in smaller portions and have several stressless meals from one recipe.
This particular recipe has wonderful complex flavors and cuts firmly and cleanly and is a little bit easier to make than some other lasagne recipes. The noodles are moist, not dry. The sauce recipe yields a generous 3 quarts, giving you more than enough to prepare the dish and serve extra sauce at the table. The leftover sauce can be frozen and used for raviolis or spaghetti at a later date. Don’t be tempted to use all the sauce on the lasagne, because one of the secrets to a clean-cutting lasagne is to use less, not more, sauce. Another is to let it sit for 20 - 30 minutes before slicing.
If you're short on time, make the sauce up to four days ahead. Assemble the lasagne the night before or the morning of your meal. If you shun red meat products, substitute ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef, and Italian-style chicken sausage for the pork sausage. Served with a tossed green salad and a good Chianti, there is no better make-ahead meal than lasagne.
The yield will depend on what you serve with the lasagne and the appetite of your diners, but roughly figure on feeding 12 people.
Spinach Lasagne with Meat Sauce
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced fresh onion
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. crushed anise seed
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seed
1/2 tsp. dried Mediterranean or Greek oregano leaves, crushed
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
In a Dutch oven, saute onion in oil over medium heat till transparent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic. Add meats and 1 tsp. salt; mash with fork or wooden spoon till large clumps are smoothed out. Continue to cook until well browned. Pour grease off. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, broth, anise seed, basil, fennel seed, oregano, cayenne, parsley and remaining 1 tsp. salt. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for about 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed. Sauce may be used immediately, refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for future use.
Yield: about 3 quarts
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add 1 tsp. salt (or to taste) to water and 15 lasagne noodles. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or till noodles are al dente – just a bit firm to the bite but cooked through. Drain noodles through colander; rinse with cold water to stop cooking; set aside.
16 oz. ricotta cheese
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese + 1/2 cup for layering
1-1/2 cups frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
1-1/4 cups shredded Provolone cheese
In medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, nutmeg, parsley, salt and 1/4 cup Parmesan with spatula or spoon, mixing well; set aside. In small bowl, stir together mozzarella and Provolone; set aside.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNE:
Heat oven to 375F. Spray a 9” x 13” heavy Pyrex dish with nonstick cooking spray. Make an assembly line of sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, mozzarella mixture and Parmesan.
Spread a thin layer of sauce on bottom of dish (about 1/2 cup). Arrange 3 noodles lengthwise over sauce. Spread with 1/4 of ricotta cheese mixture; top with 1/5 mozzarella mixture; spoon about 3/4 cup meat sauce over mozzarella; sprinkle with about 1-1/2 Tbsp. Parmesan from the remaining 1/2 cup. Repeat 3 times. Lay the final 3 noodles over the top; spread with 1 cup meat sauce; sprinkle remaining mozzarella mixture and Parmesan over top. Top with foil that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to protect cheeses. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes.* Remove foil; bake an additional 25 minutes, or till bubbling and very hot. Cool for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Yield: 12 servings
*Baking time is assuming ingredients are at room temperature. If you refrigerate lasagne before baking, allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before placing in oven, or start in cold oven and increase baking time.