August 30, 2010

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

I find spinach lasagna normally pretty heavy and flavorless. I have tried several different attempts and they all tend to turn out the same...very one-dimensional and ho-hum. It is hard to love white, gloppy, overly-creamy sauce, starchy noodles, and boring, blah, frozen spinach(*). The whole dish is usually just a bunch of superfluous calories without packing a true flavor punch.

(*Although, I will add a caveat here. I am not a fan of frozen spinach. While it is convenient, it just tastes very metallic to me.)

The bottom line is that I don't usually like to spend a lot of time on a labor-intensive dish--such as lasagna--and not have it be a totally rewarding dining experience. Until now, I had basically decided to write spinach lasagna off as a dish that was just not worth the effort. Thankfully, this recipe has restored my faith. I have finally found a version of this dish that my whole family loves, and that is everything I had hoped for in the flavor department.

Well, sort of...

I had to do some of my own tweaking to get it the way I wanted it, but the end result was spot-on. I started with America's Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010 cookbook's take on spinach lasagna. Then I made so many changes it barely resembled the original published recipe. I, more or less, used the cookbook recipe as a blueprint and then did my own thing. The result was by far my favorite version of a spinach lasagna to date. Finally, a winner!!!!

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna
Adapted From: America's Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010 cookbook

2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 package of sliced mushrooms
2 bags of fresh, baby spinach
3 cups of milk
3 Tablespoons of corn starch
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of fresh nutmeg, grated
2 bay leaves
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, divided
8 ounces of low-fat cottage cheese, small curd
1 egg
1 cup of shredded asiago cheese
1/2 cup of shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 box of your choice of lasagna noodles, cooked & drained
cooking spray
fresh basil, chiffonade

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook and drain the lasagna noodles as needed. Run noodles under cool water to prevent sticking and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute onions and mushrooms until onions soften and are translucent and mushrooms are cooked. Add salt to taste. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add grated nutmeg and bay leaves. Turn heat down to low, and add milk. Sprinkle in corn starch while whisking continuously. Turn heat back up, until milk mixture is simmering but not boiling (keep whisking during this step). When mixture thickens into a sauce, stir in the spinach leaves until they are wilted. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper, as needed. Set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine the egg, cottage cheese, and a pinch of salt until smooth in consistency. Set aside.

To assemble the lasagna: Spray 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Layer noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread half of spinach/mushroom mixture on top of noodles. Sprinkle half of shredded asiago, mozzarella, and fontina cheeses. Add another layer of noodles. Top layer with cottage cheese mixture. Add another layer of noodles. Top with the remaining spinach/mushroom mixture, shredded cheeses, and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. At the end of the cook time, turn on the broiler on high to get the cheese brown and toasty for approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve and enjoy!

The Result:
This took a little time to put together, but it was well worth the effort. The husband and I both had seconds, and I could not stop taking bites out of the pan as I put away the leftovers. Needless to say, we all loved this dish, and it will be one that I make again.

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