“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

26 August 2011

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

If you’re a fan of manicotti – and my husband totally adores manicotti – but don’t want to try to stuff those stupid manicotti shells (I really don’t like stuffing manicotti shells!) then this is the recipe for you.  All the flavor and cheese-stuffed pasta-goodness of manicotti without the pain in the neck of stuffing!  And, as an added bonus, spinach – some of the best stuff there is for you!  (Do I sound like a commercial yet?  Of all the recipes I’ve tried for this blog so far, I think this is my fave.)  So without further fanfare, here it is:
Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups
serves 4
8 no-boil lasagna noodles
I tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 ounces washed baby spinach (or 8 ounces frozen spinach leaves, thawed and squeezed dry)
1½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
1 cup part-skim ricotta
½ cup freshly grated parmesan, cheese, divided
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 cups tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place noodles and enough water to cover in a 2-quart microwave-safe, ovenproof casserole dish.  Cover and microwave on high until noodles are softened, about 4 minutes.  Drain off water and arrange noodles on a plate to cool.  Dry casserole dish.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non-stick skillet.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add spinach and 1 tablespoon water, then stir to coat leaves and cover pan.  Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until wilted, about 1 minute.  Spread cooked spinach out on a cutting board to cool, then finely chop.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of the mozzarella, ricotta, ¼ cup of the parmesan cheese, egg, nutmeg, and pepper.  Stir in cooled spinach mixture.  Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in bottom of casserole.  Place ¼ cup of the cheese and spinach mixture at base of each noodle and roll up.  Place rolls seam-side down in casserole; pour remaining sauce over rolls.  Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan.  Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes.  Uncover, and bake until cheese bubbles, 5 to 10 minutes more.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Easy easy easy.  And yummy yummy yummy!  I even used fresh spinach, are you impressed?  (Ok, it had started to wilt in my crisper, but I figure it was just going to get wiltier.)  And can you believe it, I actually followed the recipe this time!  Well, almost.  I used spaghetti sauce instead of tomato sauce.  (My husband has declared that this is his favorite.)  And I didn’t measure out the mozzarella when putting it on top, but I’m fairly sure I used more than was called for.  I just sprinkle until it looks good.  Did the same with the parm.  Other than that, I really did follow the recipe.

One thing I will do next time though – my noodles got very sticky just sitting there on the plate.  I would probably keep them in cool water and just pat them dry with a clean dish towel or a paper towel when I was ready to roll.  Still, I am definitely making this one again.  This was not only my favorite recipe to date, but everyone ate it – even my tomato-hater – and NO ONE complained.  How’s that for a perfect dinner?

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