I was inspired both by Ina Garten’s recipe for Turkey Lasagna and an Epicurious recipe including a spicy tomato sauce. Garten’s lasagna called for goat cheese mixed in with the ricotta but, while I love goat cheese, I didn’t have any on hand. I did have some cream cheese, and since I had tried that before with great results, I stirred some of that in with the ricotta for added creaminess. I find this unnecessary with fresh whole milk ricotta, but supermarket brands are pretty bland, so I like the rich taste that cream cheese gives the filling. Really, what isn’t made better with cream cheese?
I don’t know if all of you out there have an opinion about this or not, but I used frozen spinach in this lasagna, and it’s the second or third time I’ve done so, and I really think it tastes nasty. Most of the time, I don’t mind frozen spinach in baked dishes, but from now on I’m going to cook down fresh spinach. I thought it gave the lasagna almost a bitter flavor, especially when reheated the next day. Any thoughts?
This lasagna reminds of the way I like my drinks – lighter, in the sense that the proportions are kept the same, but in a smaller amount, not weak, in the sense that less alcohol is diluted in the same amount of tonic, for example. Everything in a typical lasagna is here and it is rich tasting, but it’s also lighter than most. So, in my roundabout way, I’m trying to say that this is a meal you can also feel good about eating.
(adapted from Ina Garten and epicurious.com)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste Cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until transluscent. Sweat the onions but don’t let them brown, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and dried herbs. Stir frequently and cook 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, stir to break it up and cook about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and a splash of red wine, if you have some on hand. Let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
1 ¼ lb spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
9 traditional lasagna noodles, or 12 barilla no-cook noodles
1 15-oz container ricotta cheese
3-4 oz cream cheese, about ½ cup
1 10-oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed, or 2 cups cooked fresh spinach
1 ¼ c. grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese, grated or thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the sausage in a non-stick pan over medium heat, breaking the links into small chunks with a spatula, until no longer pink. Remove the sausage to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, ¾ cup parmesan cheese and the egg. Season with black pepper.
In a 9x13 baking dish, place about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom. Layer 3 or 4 lasagna noodles on the bottom, depending on their size. Cover the noodles with half of the ricotta mixture and half of the sausage and spinach. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella. Ladle some sauce over the top and make another layer by first placing the noodles down, then the rest of the ricotta, sausage and spinach. Sprinkle with more cheese and ladle on a bit more sauce, reserving plenty of sauce for the top. Add the last of the noodles on top and cover generously with sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is nicely browned and lasagna is bubbling and hot.