March 7, 2011

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

This is a simple, straightforward vegetarian spinach and mushroom lasagna. It takes just over an hour to prepare. I don't mind this time, since I usually just crank up some music and open a few beers. The lasagna can be prepared in advance, and baked later. This recipe is really dedicated to two people whose lasagna recipes I absolutely adore. Kathy and Sara, I hope my version makes you proud.

I make the lasagna sauce from scratch. Egg-based lasagna noodles hold up well, and the lightly sauteéd spinach, mushrooms, and cheese make a good dish, excellent. Any mixture of mushrooms will do, such as white button, cremini, or oyster mushrooms.

This serves 4-6 people; the lasagna is cooked in a 7” x 10” casserole dish. Yes, in Europe servings sizes are smaller, including common cooking dishes, something I have come to appreciate. I will post a picture of my fridge at the bottom of this post.

First, prepare the marinara sauce. It will need about 20-25 minutes to cook. While it cooks, begin heating water for the pasta (omit if using no-boil lasagna noodles), and then prep the mushroom and spinach. Finally, get the ricotta and mozzarella out. I undercook the noodles so that they will remain firm while layering. They will get cooked anyways.

Some ingredients for the marinara sauce (above and below)

Tomato chunks for the marinara sauce

Vegetable Marinara Sauce:
tbsp olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup bell pepper or carrot, chopped, such as 1 small red bell pepper or carrot,
1 bay leaf
tbsp fresh parsley or 1 tbsp dried
tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red chili flakes, optional
1/2 tsp salt
2 14 oz cans, diced low-sodium tomatoes
1/2 cup water or more (rinse out can with water to get the rest of the tomato sauce in the can)
juice of half a lemon or generous pour red wine (optional)

  1. Heat up olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium pan. Once hot, add in garlic and sauté 3 minutes.
  2. Next, add in onions and bay leaf and sauté 5 minutes.
  3. Add in bell peppers or carrots, herbs, and sprinkle with red chili flakes.
  4. Add in tomato chunks and water. Stir in salt.
  5. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan so the sauce doesn’t spurt out of the pan.
  6. Once sauce is thickened, stir in lemon juice, adjust to taste. Heat through and remove bay leaf, and then turn off heat and begin assembling the rest of lasagna ingredients.
Now for the lasagna...
Lasagna eats
Noodles, mozzarella and ricotta (above)
2 very large handfuls of fresh spinach (above)
Half the spinach, cooked down (above)
Mushrooms (above)
Wilted spinach and chopped mushrooms (above)
    Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
    1 batch of marinara sauce
    2 generous handfuls of fresh spinach (about 4 loosely packed cups of spinach), washed and drained.
    2 cups of fresh whole mushrooms (white button, cremini, or oyster)
    1 tbsp olive oil
    2 tsp white wine vinegar
    1 8 oz serving of ricotta cheese
    1 8 oz block of fresh mozzarella (I used 6 oz), shredded or cut into thin slices.
    salt and pepper to taste
    8 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions. You'll make 4 layers.
    See note below.

    1. Heat up olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add in whole mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook another 5 minutes. It is not essential to cook them down all the way. Drizzle 2 tsp of white wine vinegar over the mushrooms, let it sizzle and make that nice sound, then remove mushrooms to a cutting board or plate. Turn heat down to low.
    2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
    3. Add in spinach. Let it wilt down and then add in more. It will completely cook down. Should take between 5-7 minutes to cook it all the way down. Meanwhile, chop up the mushrooms coarsely. Set the chopped mushrooms and wilted spinach in bowl or plate.
    4. Stir the ricotta in its own container to make it fluffy; shred or thinly slice the mozzarella and set aside.
    5. To assemble the lasagna, lightly oil the bottom of a casserole dish and spread about 1 cup of marinara sauce along the bottom. Put 2 lasagna noodles down side by side, but not overlapping. On top of these noodles, make a layer of spinach and mushrooms, top with a few slices of mozzarella. It'll melt and spread, so a little bit of cheese goes a long way. Spoon about ½ cup to ¾ cup marinara sauce over it.
    6. Place 2 more lasagna noodles down side by side so it goes on top of the previous layer. Take spoonfuls of the ricotta and spread it around making a nice even layer. You can use half the ricotta.
    7. Place 2 more lasagna noodles down on top of the previous layer. Top this layer with ricotta first, then place mushrooms, spinach, and mozzarella on top. Lightly spoon ½ cup to ¾ cup marinara sauce on top.
    8. Place the last 2 noodles on top and spoon about 1-1/2 cups of marinara on top. Spread the sauce evenly. You might need to add a bit more sauce on top. Once done, cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
    9. Remove foil, top with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake until the cheese is golden brown on top (about another 10-12 minutes). Let stand 10 minutes once out of oven, then cut into squares with a sharp knife and serve.
    Note: Cook the lasagna noodles halfway. Leave them in the pot with their cooking water. During each round of layering, I like to use a spatula or cooking spoon that is wider and longer than the pot to carefully pick up one noodle at a time. I set the utensil over the pot, and let it hang and drain over the pot the way laundry might hang on an Ikea clothes rack. This ensures that the noodles won't tear, and that I won't scald my fingers. This is also the point where I became to engrossed it how excited I was to eat the lasagna, that I forgot to take pictures. It never occurred to me to take a few final shots once it came out of the oven. Ah well.

    And now, the fridge:
    Doesn't look too tiny yet? Note shoebox size freezer.

    Perspective fridge shot. Enjoy.


    1. well... minus the mushrooms it's a winner in my book. =) one day i will make my own tomato sauce, too. it's so easy, but i just never think of it.

      i also sometimes go half and half with ricotta and silken tofu for some protein. throw in some chopped basil with the cheese mixture for some flavor too.

    2. Sara, you can always make a big batch and freeze. You know when you have time to spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen. You're not busy ;) Might be a good idea for supper club (supper fixins) easy to prepare when you're already prepping other stuff. I love the idea of the silken tofu and ricotta, but I think I'm turned off by the thought of silken tofu from some very bad vegan lasagna's I made way back in the day. That's saying a lot for someone that is lactarded.

    3. yep, great. I totally used the word lactarded. Class.

    4. you crack me up! also, i love the fridge perspective pic :)