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Classic Spinach Lasagna
Yield: 8 servings

1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 oz pancetta, chopped or blanched bacon
3 Tbsp chopped onion
1/2 lb ground round of beef
freshly ground black pepper
2 oz chicken livers cleaned and minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 1/2 lb fresh spinach, or 2 pkgs frozen spinach
1 cup ricotta
1 egg
whole nutmeg
1 lb freshly cooked lasagna noodles
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano

Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over
them. Let them sit for 30 minutes, then drain, reserving the water.
Rinse the mushroom pieces thoroughly, chop them fine, and rinse
again to remove all traces of grit. Line a sieve with a dampened
paper towel and strain the mushroom-soaking liquid into a small
bowl. Heat the olive oil in a large non-reactive skillet. Add the
pancetta and onion and saute over low heat 5 minutes. Raise heat
to medium, crumble in the ground beef, and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt
and several grindings of fresh pepper. Saute 5 more minutes, stirring
to break up the meat. Add the chopped chicken livers and the chopped
porcini. In a measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup of the mushroom-soaking
liquid and 1/2 cup hot water. Dissolve the tomato paste in this
liquid and add it to the skillet. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan
and cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally and regulating the heat to
maintain a gentle simmer.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash it carefully, and place it in
a large pot with only the amount of water that clings to the leaves.
Sprinkle lightly with salt, cover the pot and turn heat to high.
As soon as the spinach wilts, reduce heat to medium and cook 5
minutes. (If using frozen spinach, cook according to package
directions.) Drain the spinach in a colander, spray with cold water,
squeeze out most of the water, and chop it fine. Put it into a bowl
and add the ricotta, the egg, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and several
gratings of fresh nutmeg. Stir all together well.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Fill a large bowl
with ice water. Lay out several clean dish towels on a work surface.
Drop the lasagna noodles a few at a time into the boiling water
and cook 1 minute. Drain them with a slotted spoon, dip them into
the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, and lay them out on the
dish towels while you cook the rest.

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a 10-by-14-inch baking dish with 1/2
tablespoon butter. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of
lasagna noodles. (Use about a quarter of them.) Spread 1/4 of the
spinach-ricotta mixture over the surface. Sprinkle on 1/4 of the
Parmigiano, then 1/4 of the meat sauce. Make 3 more layers in the
same way, ending with the cheese and meat sauce. Finally, dot the
top with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake 15 minutes, or
until the sauce is bubbling hot. Remove from the oven and let sit
for 10 minutes before serving.


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