Monday, January 26, 2015

Easy Weeknight Lasagna Roll-Ups

What dinners do you have planned for the week? Any comfort food in there?

I usually try to compile a mix of easy to make dinners, freeze-ahead meals and family favorites. Lasagna is usually reserved for the weekend - something that takes me longer than 30 minutes to make, but it is one we always enjoy. I mean, it is classic comfort food.

My love of lasagna may just surpass Garfield the cat's..

I remember for my 13th birthday, homemade lasagna was my dinner request. I have never been a fan of ordering it in a restaurant though, and frozen just can't compare. It has to be homemade and my Mom made the best.

Lasagna is also a great place to pack in some extra veggies. Whether I put sauteed eggplant in the sauce, spinach in with the ricotta, or layer on the squash or broccoli, there are so many fun ways to switch up the flavor and customize it. But again, usually creating a dish of lasagna takes me a whole afternoon. It is a delicious labor of love, but one I don't sign-up for often.

So while looking for the week's dinner inspiration I saw photos of lasagna roll-ups, I thought this might be a great chance to simplify my favorite. Even favorite recipes have room for updates, right? Maybe it is Winter talking, but I was really craving a cheesy classic.

This lasagna roll-up recipe is a great one if you want to make a whole bunch ahead of time and freeze small trays of it. Each roll or two is a simple serving perfect to pair with a salad, bread sticks or other vegetables.

This time around I went with simple fresh wilted spinach. I happened to have a couple of bags on hand. Why fresh over frozen? Just a personal preference, but sometimes the frozen spinach has hard stems. I always have a bag or two of baby spinach in the fridge. Use what is handy for you.  I saved myself some time by blanching it in the same water that I later cooked the pasta.

I like to boil the pasta early on  and let it cool slightly on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. I used 12 noodles to fit in my casserole dish, but I always try to boil a few extra in case they break when I take them out.

I sauteed up a medium yellow onion along with sausage.

My favorite way to break up meat is with a potato masher. It makes quick work of the browning meat in smaller chunks.

Once my meat was browned, I added in my favorite jar of marinara. Let it heat through and it is ready to go.

Once everything is cooked and ready to go, assembly goes quickly. Just layer, roll, repeat. You can fill them as full as you wish, but you have to be able to transfer your roll into the casserole dish.

I had a ladle full of sauce in the bottom to keep the pasta from sticking and burning.

I put a single-layer of roll-ups in my pan and then topped with the remaining sauce and some shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Then bake. It is that easy.

Mmmm... doesn't that look good?

Lasagna Roll-ups

You Will Need:

  • Lasagna noodles, about 12 or enough to fit your casserole dish
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 c. sausage

  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp. basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Start by putting on a large pot of water to boil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the water starts to boil, blanch the baby spinach until wilted. Drain well in a colander and rough chop the spinach once it has cooled enough to handle. Set aside.

Start cooking the pasta as directed. Once cooked, remove from the boiling water and place, in a single layer, on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray to cool slightly.

In a large skillet, saute the diced onion in oil over medium heat with a pinch of salt. Add the sausage and break it up as it browns. Once the sausage is almost done cooking, add the minced garlic and finish browning. Once cooked, add the jar of marinara sauce and bring it up to a simmer. Warm through and turn off the heat.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, 1/4 c. mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and basil. 

To assemble, place a noodle on your work surface. Spread with ricotta mixture, a little wilted spinach and top with meat sauce. Spread a ladle-full of sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish. Roll up the filled lasagna noodle and place the seam-side down in the dish. Repeat until the dish is full. Top with remaining sauce and remaining cheese. Season the top with salt and pepper. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until the dish is warm and bubbly. 

To freeze ahead, before baking cover the casserole dish or disposable pan tightly and freeze instead. Enjoy!

What is on your menu this week? What is your favorite dish to make and freeze ahead for a busy night?
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