By Emily Paster
There are so few foods that all four members of my family will eat. I can get three out of four easily. Zuzu, JR and I will eat bacon; my husband won't. Zuzu, JR and my husband will eat cantalope; I won't. And my husband, Zuzu and I will eat many, many things that JR won't.
The best chance I have to get all four of us on the same page, culinarily speaking, is with some combination of noodles, tomato sauce and cheese. Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza — these kind of dishes give me the best chance of preparing one dinner for the four of us instead of the usual two, and sometimes three. It occurred to me recently that lasagna might have a fighting chance of being one of these dishes.
I was thinking about lasagna because Red Gold, a nearby Indiana-based company that grows and cans tomatoes, sent me an "All-in-One" lasagna gift pack — complete with lasagna noodles, Red Gold canned tomatoes, and a cute spatula. The idea behind the gift pack was to demonstrate how lasagna, which has reputation for being a time-consuming and difficult dish, can actually be quick and easy enough for a weeknight family dinner. Lasagna also has the benefit of being highly versatile. Once you know a base lasagna recipe, you can customize it to your family's taste by adding meats, extra vegetables or playing around with different sauces and cheese.
To get everyone excited about lasagna, Red Gold is hosting a Lasagna Party on Facebook with recipes, cooking tips and giveaways, from thousands of Red Gold aprons to three Red Gold lasagna kits, valued at $250, which include a Le Creuset lasagna pan, a $25 gift card and more. (I want that lasagna pan and that is no joke.)
You can also check out all of Red Gold's lasagna recipes, which range from a classic meaty lasagna to Chicken Parmesan and Eggplant Florentine lasagna. But Red Gold wants to encourage all of you to create your own gourmet lasagna using your family's favorite ingredients. You can show off your creations by posting them to the Red Gold Facebook page, pinning them on Pinterest or sharing them on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #RGLasagna.
My lasagna creation is actually a lasagna roll-up. I have wanted to try doing this for ages. Basically, instead of layering the noodles and filling in the pan, you spread sauce and cheese on each lasagna noodle and then roll the noodles up like a jellyroll. You place the rolled-up noodles in a baking dish with sauce, top them with more sauce and cheese and then bake.
Not only do lasagna roll-ups make a fun presentation, but I find that the noodles and cheese don't dry out as much as they can in a traditional layered lasagna. My husband, who loves tomato sauce so much that he could eat it straight, is not usually a big fan of baked pasta dishes because he thinks they are dry. This recipe, however, won him over.
I made my own tomato sauce for this dish with my Red Gold tomatoes because I prefer homemade sauce to anything from a jar. I actually made the sauce the day before, when I was puttering around the house doing other things, so it did not feel especially burdensome. But you could easily substitute your favorite jarred sauce and it would decrease the work by a lot.
You can also make the whole lasagna as much as a day ahead and bake it off when you are ready to eat — making this recipe perfect for entertaining. An unbaked dish of these lasagna rolls would also be a great meal to bring a friend or neighbor who is sick or has a new baby. Just include baking instructions and use a disposable baking pan. It's a perfect one-dish meal and has the added benefit of being vegetarian.
I hope you are inspired to try your hand at lasagna and join the Red Gold Lasagna party!
Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups:
For the sauce:
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. each dried thyme and oregano
- Pinch dried red pepper flakes
- 2 28 oz. cans Red Gold crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp. sugar
For the filling:
- 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 8 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and draine
For the lasagna:
- 1 box lasagna noodles
- 1 cup grated part-skim mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.
- Saute the onions, carrots and garlic over medium heat until softened, but not browned, about ten minutes.
- Season the vegetables with thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste and continue to saute for a few additional minutes, until fragrant.
- Add crushed tomatoes and sugar and bring sauce to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer sauce until thickened, about 30 minutes. (You can continue to simmer the sauce for several hours to deepen the flavor if making it ahead.)
- Preheat the oven to 375 and spread 1.5 cups tomato sauce in the bottom of a 3 qt baking dish.
- Cook lasagna noodles in boiling salted water until al dente, about ten minutes. Do not overcook.
- While noodles are cooking, in a large bowl combine ricotta, egg yolk, nutmeg and spinach. Season mixture with salt and pepper.
- When noodles are cooked, spread them on waxed paper or a large mat to keep them from sticking. (I used my pastry rolling mat.)
- To fill the noodles, spoon 2-3 teaspoons of tomato sauce down the middle of the noodle leaving space on the sides and ends.
- Top the sauce with 2-3 teaspoons of the ricotta mixture.
- Gently roll the noodle up like a jelly roll and place seam-side down in the baking dish.
- Repeat until all the noodles are filled or you run out of filling.
- Top the noodles with the remaining tomato sauce.
- Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the noodles.
- Cover with foil and bake for thirty minutes.
- Remove foil and bake for an additional ten minutes until the cheese on top is melted and bubbling.
- Allow to cool for five minutes before serving.
Full disclosure time: I received a Red Gold gift pack with which to create my lasagna free of charge. I have not received any additional products or compensation. As always, all opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.