A Squared: What's For Dinner Wednesday: Beef & Spinach Lasagna

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Beef & Spinach Lasagna

Brrrrrrr.

That's been the general sentiment here in Chicago this week. The last few days have been so frigid that all I have wanted to do is hibernate-- which I would, except for that whole work thing. So even though I didn't have the luxury of staying at home in my fuzzy socks during these past couple of super cold days, I was at least adequately prepared for it: With a seriously cozy make-ahead dinner.


I haven't made a lasagna in quite some time, but after Alex and I missed mom's lasagna night when we left northern Michigan a day earlier than everyone else after our holiday celebration we were both craving it. So on another bitterly cold day (this time, a Sunday) I assembled two small lasagnas: one for dinner that night and another that I froze for later, which was such a good idea! And it's one I'll be employing again in the next few months in preparation for my maternity leave too.


This hearty lasagna recipe has all the flavors and that melty cheesy quality that you're looking for from a traditional lasagna-- just with a few healthier tweaks. Barilla makes a great whole grain lasagna noodle and I used those in this recipe along with my favorite Laura's Lean Beef ground beef, which is super lean but full of flavor. I also use lower fat mozzarella and ricotta in the cheese mixture, folding in chopped fresh spinach which adds some nice moisture and extra nutrients. It's all layered up together and baked until brown and bubbly.


I'm not big on casseroles, but lasagna is definitely the exception to that rule! This classic recipe is a real winner and a perfect one to make whether you're feeding a crowd this winter or whether you're divvying it up so that you can enjoy one tonight and freeze one to enjoy later too. This lasagna freezes beautifully, so go ahead and save one for a rainy (or snowy day)-- or consider making one to bring to your favorite new mommy!


Ingredients:

  • 12 whole grain lasagna noodles
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef *I like Laura's Lean Beef brand, 92% lean
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cups prepared marinara sauce
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. dry basil
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups grated fresh Parmesan, divided
  • 4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a large pot of of water to boil and cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.

Heat 1/2 Tbs. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and break up into smaller pieces with a spatula. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until beef is beginning to brown. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring often until beef is totally browned and onions are softened. Stir in the marinara sauce until fully combined and then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine egg, basil, milk, ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine.

Ladle about one cup of the meat sauce into the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish (or divide among smaller baking dishes of equivalent size) and spread the sauce evenly around the bottom of the pan. 

Cover the sauce layer in the bottom of the pan with three lasagna noodles. Use the back of a spoon to spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture over the lasagna noodles. Sprinkle a handful (1/2 to 1 cup) of mozzarella cheese evenly over the top. Spoon meat sauce over the top of the mozzarella and gently spread out into an even layer.

Lay down three new lasagna noodles and repeat above step with two more layers.

Top with remaining three noodles. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over the top of the noodles. Sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella, reserved 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, and drizzle the top with reserved 1/2 Tbs. olive oil.

Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow the lasagna to sit for about 10 minutes. Use a spatula to slice and serve.

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