Lasagna Lovin' and Technology Woes

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day in Boston.  It was the type of day that stirs up an internal contentment and almost giddy feeling that is proof that the end of winter is near and spring is, in fact, on its way.  Donning my fleece jacket instead of a heavy winter coat, I had set out for a nice walk to my local Whole Foods to see what they were up to.  Not having a plan, I was hoping my next creation would just come to me.  At just about 5 minutes into to my grocery store excursion, it did.  Fresh, hand rolled lasagna sheets...on sale!  Having actually never made a legit lasagna before, I wanted to take a stab at it.  Wanting to keep it vegetarian (how many weeks until bathing suit season?) I opted for a classic spinach and mushroom version and then threw in a roasted red pepper for good measure.  It was wonderful.  Lovely. Delightful even.  The vegetable combination I chose was perfect; all tangled up in a ricotta, sauce and mozzarella mess of goodness.  And the aroma!  Oh the wonderful scent that was coming out of my kitchen and wafting through my apartment, teasing me, making me feel like every minute without this lasagna in front of me feel like an hour.
With inspiration bubbling up inside of me like an overflowing pot of pasta boiling on the stove, I couldn't wait to translate my cookings into words.  I turned on my computer ready to type.  And that's when all hell broke loose.  Sadly, my computer had breathed its last breath and was officially dead.  Cause of death?  A nasty virus that had infiltrated my system, robbing me of access to anything and beyond repair.   Needless to say, first this morning, I was at the store picking out a brand new laptop.  A couple of days without blogging?  Not a chance.

So while this might be a day late, this recipe is a perfect one to put in your "easy to make and impressive to make when I have people over" file.  Super easy and absolutely delicious, simply put, this recipe rocks.  Although I used homemade lasagna sheets, you could also use store bought dried lasagna noodles as well.  However, if you can find the fresh homemade stuff (or if you're ambitious enough to make some yourself) you won't be sorry.  You could also switch up the vegetables to whatever you like or you could add meat.  Another added beauty of lasagna is that it freezes particularly well.  I recommend making up two pans of it and freeze one, uncooked.  It's great to have on hand for a busier weeknight meal.  

Spinach Mushroom and Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna 
* I made this in a smaller dish.  If you are looking to make this in a normal sized, 13 x 9 baking dish, I would double the recipe and triple it if you are using an even larger pan.

- 3 sheets of homemade pasta sheets (or enough to cover the pan at least three times.  More for a deeper dish)
- 1 - 28 oz can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (I recommend using these because they are sweeter)
~1 - 1 1/2 tbs of tomato paste
~ 1 tbs dried Italian seasoning (or any herb combination you'd like)
~ 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
~ A tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 carton of mushrooms, sliced and cooked
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 medium size roasted red pepper (you can roast your own or buy them pre-roasted in the store), cut into thin strips
~ 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
~ 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

To make the sauce, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the garlic, stirring frequently to avoid burning.  Once the garlic has softened, add the tomato paste and stir to combine.  Keep stirring the tomato paste until it gets darker in color (about 5 minutes).  Add the can of crushed tomatoes and the dried herbs.  Stir to combine.  Cover the sauce and let it simmer on medium low.  Meanwhile, wilt the spinach in a pan by heating it on medium heat until is reduces in size.  Remove spinach from the pan and finely chop it.  Put the ricotta cheese in to a large bowl.  Add the egg and stir until well combined.  Add the mushrooms, chopped spinach, roasted red peppers and a little salt and pepper and stir.

To make things easiest, it helps to set up a little assembly line of noodles, sauce and ricotta mixture.  To start, ladle some sauce into the bottom of the pan, just enough to cover the bottom with a this layer.  (This avoids burning and sticking.)  Next, apply a layer of noodle (with the homemade noodles I used, they didn't need to be boiled beforehand) followed by a layer of ricotta mixture.  Follow up with another layer of noodle and a layer of sauce.  Repeat the noodle - ricotta - noodle - sauce pattern until you reach the top of the pan.  Top with mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes, depending on how big your pan is.  The lasagna is done when the cheese gets all bubbly and the ends start to get a little crispy (the best part in my opinion).

A very special Small Boston Kitchen thanks to my techy gurus: Matt and Sarah!!


Anonymous said...

Sorry about the demise of your "blogger machine" but happy you are back in business. I love lasagna and always forget to think of making it. Thanks for the suggestion - I know what we're having for dinner at our house tomorrow night!! My girls will be thrilled!!

Anonymous said...

I just drooled a little at the sight of that photo. AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

The lasagna recipes sounds fabulous, the only ingredient I am not used to in a lasagna is the fennel seeds. I am curious how this might change the flavor?! I actually made lasagna in my house this week as well before I saw your posting. I cheated on mine by adding Rao's homemade jarred sauce, which I love and then also added ground beef and a little hot italian sausage. I will have to try your recipe next time!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Anonymous #1: Thanks for the well wishes, hope your girls liked the lasagna...isn't it the best?

Anonymous #2: Thank you!! I only wish my camera had smell-o-vision because my whole apartment was perfumed by this!

Anonymous #3: Fennel seeds are my new favorite thing in tomato sauce. To be honest, I don't add too many but I love the subtle little earthy flavor that they provide. It just gives it a different dimension. And if you're going to buy jar sauce, Rao's is my pick as well. Pricier but I think the closest you can get to homemade from a jar. Let me know if you try the fennel seeds!

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