Mar 25, 2013

Lasagna rolls with spinach

I just saw that Lasagna Rolls by Giada De Laurentiis is the most popular pasta dish on Foodnetwork. I didn't find out about it till after I'd made it a couple of times. I've had the recipe in Giada's book ever since...I got the book. Lasagna rolls is a great idea, better than a traditional lasagna. Each sheet of pasta is individually covered with a filling and rolled, which makes each serving look very attractive. The two sauces, white and red, make the whole dish come together perfectly. I tripled the amount of tomato sauce.
The filling is a place to experiment. Giada used frozen spinach in her recipe and advised about squeezing all the water out of the greens...or the dish would turn watery. I took the advice seriously, squeezed and squeezed. I ended up with a filing that was very good, but a bit dry. The second time, I asked Julian to work on the spinach giving him just a hint...and it was better. Last Sunday, I made it for the first time with fresh leaves, no squeezing...even better. 

As for as the rest of the ingredients, as long as I have spinach, ricotta and one egg, I know I can make it work. On Sunday, I only had two slices of prosciutto in my fridge. I used what I had and I added feta cheese to the recipe. The rolls came out moist and creamy. The taste is very delicate, not overpowering. You're eating it...wondering: "Why is this so good?"

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

time: 1 1/2 hr preparation + 1 hr cooking = 2 1/2 hrs

3 - 4 cups marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups bechamel sauce
9 lasagna sheets
200 g (7 oz)fresh (baby) spinach
250 g (9 oz) ricotta cheese
2 slices prosciutto crudo (not cooked)
60 g (2 oz) feta cheese
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan
125 g (4 oz) fresh mozzarella
1 small egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
butter for greasing the dish

Prepare the sauces. Marinara sauce takes 25 minutes, béchamel - 7 minutes.

In a food processor, chop spinach leaves till fine. Finely chop prosciutto slices. In a medium bowl, mix together chopped spinach, prosciutto, ricotta, feta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg (lightly beaten), salt and pepper.

Prepare a large piece of parchment paper and lay it flat on your counter top. In a large pot with salted, boiling water, cook lasagna sheets. I used lasagna sheets that don't require pre-cooking and cooked them only 3 minutes. If you're using regular pasta, cut the recommend (on the package) cooking time by 3-4 minutes. Using tongs (wooden work the best), or whatever tool you got, take the sheets out of the water and place them flat on the parchment paper. Try not to brake the pasta.

Preheat oven to 450F/235C (fan forced function). Butter a 20x28cm/8x11inch ceramic dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with béchamel sauce.

Using a fork or a spatula, apply about 3 Tablespoon of the spinach filling onto each pasta sheet. Spread the mix evenly and carefully to cover uniformly the entire surface of the rectangle. Roll the sheets, without pressing. Line them loosely (if you can) in your prepared ceramic dish on top of béchamel. Cover all the rolls with 1 cup of marinara sauce. The rest of the sauce is to be used on the side, later. Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan and chunks of mozzarella (I forgot).

Cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Place in the hot oven for 20 minutes, till the rolls are heated through and the sauce bubbles. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes until cheese on top is golden. Take it out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Very good the next day as well.

Heat up the remaining marinara sauce. Pour it in a dish and set on a table for individual use to be served on top of lasagna rolls. Enjoy it!

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