Sometimes, a cooking creation just goes blah. Not bad. Not good. Maybe so-so. That’s what happened when I decided I had a hankering for a white lasagna. I didn’t follow any particular recipe. Most recipes I did find for white lasagna were also vegetarian and I’m afraid I wanted meat. What I made was an amalgamation of stuff I’ve read and morphed into my cooking brain.
I’ve made lasagna hundreds of times. I even tried a couple specialty versions – a Mexican lasagna, with beans, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses and tortillas substituting for pasta; and a German lasagna, with corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. All very good experiments.
So I wanted to experiment one more time with lasagna and make white lasagna rolls. I decided I’d spoon some ricotta-spinach filling onto lasagna noodles, then roll them up and pour a creamy, a little cheesy, white sauce over everything and bake. Pretty simple.
What I got was pretty simple, too – simply bland, even anemic. Time to ramp things up!
So it was back to the drawing board, without abandoning the basic concept, just spicing it up some. My first version depended on parmesan cheese alone to get the cheesiness I wanted. The second time, I added mozzarella. (I have to admit, I was trying to cut down on the calories.) I also added lemon zest and fresh nutmeg to the ricotta filling. That was all that was needed to change the taste. (And a little bit of freshly chopped Italian parsley on top to change the look.)
White Lasagna Roll-ups
12 cooked lasagna noodles
½ lb sweet Italian sausage
1 t fennel seed, crushed
1 - 15-oz container ricotta cheese
1 - 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (about 1 cup)
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t lemon zest
¼ C butter
¼ C flour
2 C milk
½ C chicken broth
¼ t nutmeg
½ C parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup Italian parsley chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1. Break up sausage in skillet and brown, adding fennel seed as it cooks. Drain and set aside.
2. Make sauce: In large saucepan, melt butter. Add flour. Over medium heat, add milk all at once, stirring often until thickened. Reduce heat. Slowly add chicken broth, stirring. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Add drained sausage to sauce.
3. Make filling: In bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, spinach, nutmeg and lemon zest.
4. To assemble: Spray 13 X 9 pan with non-stick spray. Spread about ¾ cup sauce in bottom of pan, enough to cover bottom. On work surface, lay lasagna noodle flat. Place two large tablespoons of filling (about ¼ cup) and spread over noodle. Starting at one end, roll up and place, seam side down, in pan. Repeat with the remainder of noodles. Spoon remainder of sauce over lasagna rolls, covering each roll. Sprinkle mozzarella over rolls, too.
5. Bake covered with foil that has been sprayed with non-stick spray for 30 minutes; remove foil, and bake an additional 15 minutes, until cheese is lightly browned. Sprinkle with parsley.
P.S. So is it “lasagna” or “lasagne”? All I know is when I ran spell check, it said lasagna.
P.P.S. Mom's china looks great, doesn't it?