Spinach Ricotta Lasagna


My current kitchen obsession of late is fresh ricotta and utilizing my slow cooker. Fresh ricotta is so simple to make and the sweet, mild flavor addicting. So a few weeks ago I was in the mood for lasagna and, since trying to go meat-free a few times a week, decided to go with spinach. Hankering for a reason to use my slow cooker, I also decided to start the marinara sauce the night before and let it simmer low and slow overnight. My kitchen smelled amazing the next morning! Of course, we have a love affair with tomatoes at our house (shhh, don’t tell the tacos). The combination of the sweet ricotta and spinach together was amazingly delicious and the slow simmered tomato sauce added just enough tang! It won favorite lasagna of all time unanimously. Thankfully, I enjoyed this practice run before deciding to whip up a Turkey Bolognese Lasagna for my neighbors a couple weeks later. IMG_1205

That small one there next to the neighbor’s lasagna, I had to make for my spoiled wife, which I was obviously all too happy to do. The fresh ricotta in each batch really balanced the hearty, umami flavors of the turkey bolognese. Basically, with fresh ricotta, you can’t go wrong no matter what dish you add it to.

Spinach Ricotta Lasagna

Ingredients:

 1 pkg Whole Wheat lasagna noodles, cooked per package directions

2 to 3 cups Marinara Sauce, or tomato sauce of choice

3 to 4 cups fresh Spinach, sauteed and squeezed as dry as possible

2 cups fresh Ricotta or Ricotta of choice

1 large fresh Mozzarella ball, shredded

1 good quality egg

1/4 cup Parmesan

1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

about 1/4 cup shredded Italian blend cheese

1/4 tsp EVO

3 large sheets of wax paper

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

In a large stock pot of salted water, add the EVO and cook the lasagna noodles per package directions. Carefully remove the noodles and lay them in a single layer across the wax paper sheets and allow them to cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or butter a large glass casserole dish to help prevent the lasagna from sticking. Set aside. In a med mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and parmesan and stir until well combined. Feel free to add any herbs you like to the ricotta mixture, if desired. Begin to assemble the lasagna. Layer a small amount of marinara sauce, about a ladle full, to the bottom of the casserole dish and spread it evenly around. Layer 3 to 4 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Evenly spread about 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles then top that with spinach, a little more sauce, the fresh shredded mozzarella, and finish with a layer of noodles. Repeat for 1 to 2 more layers. Finish with last layer of noodles with a bit more sauce, any leftover shredded mozzarella, and the shredded Italian cheese blend. Lightly cover with aluminum foil and bake in the over about 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum and continue to bake uncovered about 15 minutes more or until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Allow to rest at least 15 minutes up to 20 or more. Serve with a side salad and additional tomato sauce, if desired.

Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese 

Ingredients:

1 pkg good quality ground turkey

3 tablespoons EVO, divided

2 large tomatoes

1 lg can good quality crushed tomatoes, plus one equal can of water or stock

1 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup loosely packed basil, reserved

2 tablespoons fresh Rosemary, chopped, divided

4 tablespoons fresh Oregano, chopped, divided

1 clove garlic, crushed with a garlic press

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp Fennel seed, toasted and crushed

1/4 tsp Red Pepper flakes, optional

1 tablespoon Vegetable Better than Boullion

1 tab of butter, reserved

1 herb bundle: with kitchen twine, tie together 1 sprig of rosemary, two sprigs of thyme, several sprigs of oregano, and 3 to 4 basil leaves (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Over a medium high flame in a large skillet, saute the ground turkey in the EVO with salt and pepper until it begins to brown. Once browning, add the fennel seed and saute a few minutes more. Add about a 1/4 cup of water and stir up all the fond from the bottom of the pan and simmer until the water completely reduces. Stir in the crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon each of the fresh rosemary and oregano. Continue to cook until the garlic and turkey sausage has cooked through. Turn the flame off the turkey sausage and begin the tomato sauce. Turn a slow cooker on high and add in the onion and 1 tablespoon EVO. Once the slow cooker is hot, cover the onions and allow to simmer about 5 to 8 minutes. Next add in the chopped tomatoes, can of crushed tomatoes, can of water, 1 tablespoon of vegetable bouillon, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Drop in the herb bundle, if using. Allow to simmer on high for about 1 hour. Reduce to low, add in the turkey sausage and simmer an additional 4 to 6 hours or until desired thickness is reached. Serve over pasta or use as a hearty sauce for lasagna.

 

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