I’ve experimented in every way imaginable with Lasagna – vegetarian and meat versions, with and without sausage, with butternut squash, eggplant, potatoes, obscure cheeses — you name it. I really enjoy this one, however I also make vegetarian lasagna that I LOVE and will share that recipe soon. This heartier variant, with sausage and spinach, is perfect for the chilly ‘anti-spring’ we’re having in Boston.
What you’ll need to make this:
A deep baking/roasting or casserole dish (ideally one with it’s own cover, however if not, you can use foil to cover the lasagna before placing it in the oven). Spray the dish lightly with olive or coconut oil.
- 16 oz. of full or low fat cottage cheese (this works out well, don’t be scared… it’s lighter than using ricotta but still tastes delicious in the finished dish).
- ½ a cup of grated or shredded pecorino romano (or parmesan) cheese
- 1 whole egg (I use large eggs but size of egg is not important here).
- ½ tsp. of freshly ground nutmeg (or 1 tsp. of dried nutmeg)
- 1 dash of allspice
- 1 to 1 ½ lbs. of Sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (pre-kids I would use hot Italian sausage, if you want an even richer lasagna then you can also add 1 lb. of ground pork, beef or more Italian sausage).
- If you’d like to make your own sauce, it’s very easy – here’s one of mine:
- 1 medium onion – diced.
- Garlic (5 or 6 cloves) – cut into small pieces or minced through a garlic press.
- 28 oz. can of crushed or whole tomatoes in juice (if using whole, cut them up a bit with a wooden spoon in the pan).
- Herbs of your choice – I typically use ¼ cup of basil (cut into ribbons), rosemary (2 sprigs, leaves removed & chopped fine) &/or thyme (a whole sprig, the small leaves will fall off during cooking).
- ½ a cup of red wine (or ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar).
- ½ to 1 tsp. of demerara sugar or honey, salt and pepper to taste.
- A jar of prepared pasta or marinara sauce that you like and add about a ½ cup of water, chicken stock or red wine to it.
- Dried lasagna noodles (regular noodles or no-boil, we’re not boiling them but it works with regular noodles just the same). Quantity will vary a bit based on the size of your baking dish, plan to have at least 9 or10 dried lasagna noodles on hand.
- 1 to 1½ cups of fresh baby spinach leaves.
- Low-fat (part-skim) shredded mozzarella cheese (about 1 – 1 ½ cups)
Steps to put this on your table:
- Preheat your office to 400 degrees F.
- Prepare the cheese mixture first:
- In a small bowl, combine thoroughly with a wooden spoon: the cottage cheese, pecorino romano (or parmesan) cheese, egg, nutmeg and allspice. Put aside (you can also make this ahead of time and put it in the fridge for up to 24 hours until you’re ready to make the sauce).
- Prepare the sauce:
- Sauté the sausage in a wide deep saucepan or stockpot on medium high heat (and ground pork or beef if you’re using it) along with the onion until it’s browned on the outside and the onion is translucent (about 5 or 6 minutes).
- Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes, wine (or balsamic vinegar), brown sugar, salt, pepper and herbs.
- Stir the mixture and reduce the heat to low, simmer until the flavors have come together and the sausage is cooked, about 10 – 15 minutes more.
- Keep warm on very low heat while you assemble the lasagna.
If you’re using jarred sauce, warm it up over low heat and add the water, stock or wine to it.
You’re now ready to layer the lasagna in the baking dish.
Lasagna Layering Steps:
- Spray or rub your baking dish with either olive oil or coconut oil.
- Spread about ¼ to 1/3 of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish.
- Place a layer of the dried lasagna noodles on top of the tomato sauce.
- Using a spatula, spread ½ of the cheese mixture carefully (the noodles will move around a bit and you want to keep them in an even, single layer) to cover the noodles.
- Place your baby spinach leaves on top of the cheese mixture evenly.
- Top the spinach leaves with another1/3 of your tomato sauce.
- Add another layer of dried lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, in one even layer (not overlapping).
- Spread the other ½ of your cheese mixture on top of the noodles.
- Finish with the remaining tomato sauce.
- Sprinkle a generous layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce.
- Cover your dish (ideally your baking dish has a cover, if not spray olive or coconut oil onto a layer of foil and then cover the dish tightly around the edges without getting too close to the cheese on top).
Bake the lasagna at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the cheese on top is bubbling and looks slightly browned.
Place the finished lasagna on a heat-safe counter or cooling rack, allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Enjoy! If you try this, please leave a comment and let me know how it turned out for you.
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