I’ve talked about Giada De Laurentiis here before and this probably won’t be the last time. She’s been an inspiration to me to start cooking with a little more variety, as well as just being able to find cooking to be a fun experience overall. While I was pregnant with the kidlet, I developed a common condition called Preeclampsia, which could cause my blood pressure to spike to dangerous levels. Pretty much the only way I could do my part to control this was to lay on my left side as much as possible. For about two months. I actually worried that my left side would become noticeably…flatter than my right. Heh. Thank goodness the furniture layout in our living room allowed for me to lay relatively comfortably on my left side and stare at the television. Because I couldn’t be up cleaning. Or cooking. Or web surfing. Or doing anything. At all. (Yes, I showered, but that’s about it.) I read a lot, too, but being in the house alone for most of the day, well, I kind of needed to hear other people and I liked listening to the TV for the background noise. You’d think I’d hate to lay on my left side these days, but it’s actually kind of…comforting.
Anyway, what I watched a lot of while on my left side was the Food Network, and it became more than background noise. Up till that point I was probably a fairly decent home cook. Watching the Food Network almost relentlessly for two months, though, actually got me excited about cooking. I learned about some very simple techniques that I still use today, things that make cooking easier for me. I’m much more likely to try new things. I fell in love with Giada’s style of cooking and her clear love for food and the comforts and closeness it can bring in friends and family. So when I was finally able to get back on my feet, adjust (somewhat) to a new baby, and figure out what in the heck life is like after baby, one of the first things I wanted to accomplish was trying some of Giada’s recipes. This is one, these lasagna rolls, that have never failed to make the recipients give the thumbs up. It’s simple, it has very few ingredients and it is wonderful for this time of year when cooler weather makes us want to snuggle down and find some comfort.
You start here, with easy-to-use frozen, chopped spinach and wonderfully salty, thin prosciutto. For this recipe, I usually just snag the four ounce pre-packaged prosciutto from the deli, but just about any deli section at your local grocers should have this to cut for you if you prefer it that way.
Next, just boil up, al dente style, three to four lasagna noodles at a time. You’ll need to lay them out on something they won’t stick to. We put ours on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
Take this deceptively simple filling mixture of whole-milk ricotta, the spinach and prosciutto and….
…spread along the length of one of the noodles three or so tablespoons and gently roll it up.
Pretty soon you’ll have a pan full!
You know what? You’ll need to take them back out of the pan. There’s a good reason, trust me. Because we goofed and forgot to make the béchamel first. See that creamy sauce squeezing up from between the rolls this time? Béchamel. Roll that off your tongue. It’s one of the most heavenly things ever. And it’s going to soak into those rolls. Yum. Just rest the rolls, which by now will be able to retain their rolled shapes, onto that parchment-lined cookie sheet while you pour in the béchamel.
Like this. Pour, baby, pour.
Next, after you add the rolls carefully back into the hot béchamel, grab your favorite jar of marinara. Or your homemade marinara. Whichever, the point is this is all so easy. Just pour it all on. It’s almost ready to go into the oven to melt and bake and become comfort food.
A healthy sprinkling of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses rounds it out. That’s what these cheeses do. They make everything better. Thank you, cheeses. And look, bonus – that’s my cat in the blurry background. He says hi.
Aaaaand, whallah! I know it’s going to be hard at this point, but let it rest for about ten minutes or so before you attack.
This is a wonderful, fun and new way (when you consider how long lasagna’s been around) to serve lasagna. Dig in, fellow Forkers!
Adapted slightly from Giada De Laurentiis/The Food Network
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 45 minutes Level: Intermediate Serves: 6-8
For the sauce:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 2/3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Pinch ground nutmeg
For the lasagna:
- 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
- 1 large egg, beaten to blend
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
- 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (24 oz. size)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the béchamel sauce. The sauce will continue to thicken as it stands.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
To make the lasagna: Stir the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, prosciutto, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.
Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.
Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour the béchamel sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching (not sure why she stipulates this, ours did just fine snug up against one another), atop the béchamel sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Pour jar of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.
The parts that we did differently from Giada’s original recipe were to double – yes, double – the béchamel sauce and to up the marinara to a whole jar, or 24 oz. The reason we did this is because the first time I made it strictly according to the original directions, the lasagna was a little dry. I’ve found this to be a common occurrence when making anything of Giada’s that is baked. I kind of take it as bible now that if I make any of her baked pasta recipes, I’ll up the moisture levels to compensate. Plus, doubling the béchamel sauce is also a little bit because I like it so darn much. I admit it. I’m a béchamel pig.
You don’t have to double the béchamel if you prefer not to, but be aware the directions above are the doubled directions. You’ll need to cut those in half, or click the link at the beginning of the recipe to go to the original.
You can make this all the way up to the last step and freeze it if you need to make it ahead of time. Would make a good dish for a gift to someone for just this reason. Whenever my mom does this, she usually lets it thaw about halfway before putting in the oven. Just bake until the top gets nice and brown, like usual.