A RICH AND CREAMY LASAGNA

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - KATIE WORK­MAN

In the quest for Big Crowd Food, lasagna reigns supreme.

This lasagna is rich and creamy, ab­sent the tomato sauce that an­chors many lasag­nas, filled with sautéed spinach folded into fluffy ri­cotta and a very sim­ple béchamel sauce, rich with melty cheeses. The nut­meg is op­tional — a lit­tle can add a nice flavour, but too much can over­power.

A few more notes on the in­gre­di­ents: you may think that two pounds of spinach looks like an aw­ful lot for one lasagna, but it cooks down to just a few cups. Noboil, or oven-ready, lasagna noo­dles are a gift to the busy cook, and the rea­son I make lasagna more of­ten. I have also made this recipe in a su­per­large pan and in­creased the quan­ti­ties by half again. Then it will serve 12 to 16.

It is tempt­ing to dig into a bub­bling lasagna, but re­sist the urge. Let­ting it sit for at least 10 min­utes will re­ward you with slices that hold to­gether, and it will still be per­fectly warm — in fact, just the right tem­per­a­ture for you to en­joy the flavours with­out the pieces slid­ing apart on the plates.

This can also be as­sem­bled a day ahead, held in the fridge and baked be­fore din­ner. Or it can be baked up to two days ahead and re­heated for about 20 min­utes in a 375 F oven.

Cheesy White and Green Spinach Lasagna MAKES 10 TO 12 SERV­INGS

Spinach-Basil-Ri­cotta Filling: 1 ta­ble­spoon un­salted but­ter ½ cup minced shal­lots 1 tbsp minced gar­lic Kosher salt and freshly ground pep­per to taste 2 pounds baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped 2 pounds ri­cotta, prefer­ably fresh 2 large eggs 1 cup finely grated Parme­san cheese, plus 1/3 cup for sprin­kling ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves Béchamel-Cheese Sauce: 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) un­salted but­ter ¼ cup all-pur­pose flour 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk Pinch ground nut­meg (op­tional) 1 pound fresh moz­zarella, shred­ded 8 ounces shred­ded Mon­terey Jack cheese 1 (8 ounce) pack­age no-boil lasagna noo­dles (con­tain­ing 12 noo­dles)

Start to fin­ish: 2 hours Pre­heat the oven to 375 F. Make the Spinach-Basil-Ri­cotta Filling: Heat the ta­ble­spoon but­ter in a large saucepan over medium heat un­til melted. Add the shal­lots and gar­lic, sea­son with salt and pep­per and sauté for two min­utes un­til ten­der. Add the spinach in batches and sauté, adding more spinach as each batch wilts down, about six min­utes in all, un­til all of the spinach is added and wilted. Ad­just the sea­son­ing, trans­fer to a strainer over a bowl, press down with a spoon to re­lease ex­cess liq­uid, and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl com­bine the ri­cotta, eggs, 1 cup Parme­san, and the basil. Sea­son with salt and pep­per, and set aside.

Make the Béchamel-Cheese Sauce: Heat the 4 ta­ble­spoons but­ter in a medium saucepan over medium heat un­til melted. Whisk in the flour un­til the mix­ture turns a light golden colour, about three min­utes. While whisk­ing con­stantly, slowly pour in the milk.

Con­tinue to cook and whisk un­til the mix­ture thick­ens and bubbles, about four min­utes, adding the nut­meg, if us­ing. Whisk in the moz­zarella and Mon­terey Jack cheeses un­til they are melted, and sea­son with salt and pep­per.

If the spinach still seems wet, give it a squeeze with your hands. Stir the drained spinach into the re­served ri­cotta mix­ture.

Lay out all of the lasagna noo­dles on a clean coun­ter­top. Spread the spinach-ri­cotta filling evenly over all of the noo­dles, so that each is topped with about a ½-inchthick layer of the spinach-ri­cotta mix­ture.

Pour a small amount of Béchamel into the bot­tom of a 9-by-13inch pan and spread it out. Place four ri­cotta-cov­ered noo­dles in the bot­tom of the pan to cover it in a sin­gle layer. Driz­zle one-third of the white sauce over the noo­dles. Place an­other layer of the ri­cot­ta­cov­ered noo­dles over the top, driz­zle with an­other third of the sauce, and then re­peat the lay­ers once more. Sprin­kle with the re­main­ing Parme­san cheese.

Bake for about 40 min­utes un­til the top is golden and the lasagna is bub­bling. If you want a more browned top, run it un­der the broiler for one or two min­utes, watch­ing it care­fully.

Let the lasagna rest for at least 10 to 15 min­utes be­fore cut­ting into squares and serv­ing warm.

Per serv­ing: 674 calo­ries (383 from fat); 43 grams fat (25 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 174 mil­ligrams choles­terol; 871 mg sodium; 35 g car­bo­hy­drate; 3 g fi­bre; 6 g sugar; 38 g pro­tein.

SARAH CROWDER, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

This is rich and creamy, ab­sent the tomato sauce that an­chors many lasag­nas, filled with sautéed spinach folded into fluffy ri­cotta and a very sim­ple béchamel sauce, rich with melty cheeses.

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