You guys, I am an adult. And as an adult, I know I should be able to make myself reasonably nourishing, moderately sophisticated meals on a regular basis. There’s just a few problems with that. While I know that my idea of a healthy meal should look like this:
My actual idea of a “good” dinner looks more like this:
And when I get home from work or class, what I usually have the energy for is this:
It’s quite a devolution isn’t it? From a balance of veggies and protein and vitamins to processed powder that once sat next to real cheese on an airplane. At 25, I feel slightly guilty anytime I eat Kraft Mac n Cheese (no matter how delicious), and know I shouldn’t make a habit of it. But I so rarely can convince myself that salad is “dinner,” when what I truly want is carbs and cheese.
So when I stumbled across this recipe, I decided this might be the solution to my dinner conundrum. These lasagna rollups satisfy my pasta and cheese craving (being cheese filled pasta), but they are also reasonably healthy and feature veggies in a prominent role. In addition, although they take a tiny bit of legwork to prepare, you can make a pretty big batch on Sunday evening and have dinner for several days. They reheat like a dream!
Spinach Lasagna Rolls
(adapted from skinnytaste.com)
* 9 lasagna noodles, cooked
* 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained
* 15 oz ricotta cheese (The recipe asks for fat free, but I couldn’t find this and ended up using regular ricotta. A little more fat, of course, but a lot more flavor. If you wanted to be really low-cal about it, you could use cottage cheese, but then I’m not sure we can still be friends.)
* ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 egg
* 32 oz tomato sauce (I used Ragu’s chunky Garden Veggie. I usually make my own sauce, but my goal with this recipe was cheap, quick, and easy. I find for jarred sauce this has a really good flavor and it also has two servings of veggies in it.)
* 9 tbs part skin mozzarella cheese, shredded (I did get the reduced fat version here. Bagged shredded mozzarella only has so much flavor anyway, so this is a good place to cut some calories).
* Seasonings (whatever tickles your fancy. I’m going to discuss this in just a second).
**A note about ingredients: if you season properly, you can really do this recipe on the cheap. Everything I got was Target brand (since that’s where I happened to be) except the sauce and the ricotta. If you used canned sauce that you season yourself, it’s even cheaper.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil your lasagna noodles according to package directions (I left mine pretty al-dente, both because I like firm pasta, and because they held up better for rolling).
2. Combine spinach, ricotta, parmesan, egg and seasoning in a bowl. Here’s where I’d like to chat. The recipe calls for salt and pepper, but these rolls have the potential to be a little bland since the only filling is frozen spinach (which I always think tastes like whatever is surrounding it, but greener) and ricotta. I actually didn’t put any salt in, since I was using jarred sauce, which tends to be sodium heavy. I did, however, use dried basil, oregano, a tiny tiny tiny pinch of garlic salt, and my secret weapon:
We’re going to pause for a brief (unpaid) advertisement here. If you take one thing away from reading this blog, I want it to be the unbridled glory that is Penzy’s California Seasoned Pepper. It’s pepper, but it’s so much more. It makes eggs sparkle. It makes cheese taste cheesier. It gives pasta a punch. I use in almost everything that calls for pepper or anywhere I would use pepper, and I get so many compliments. People don’t know what’s different, they just know something is awesome. You could be getting that reaction from your simplest recipes. Invest, people. You won’t regret it. Okay? Now back to our regularly scheduled recipe.
3. Ladle about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 9×12 in baking dish (if you don’t have a 9×12, you might be able to get away with something a little smaller, but not much. Of course, you could also always do these in batches. This is a super adaptable recipe.)
4. Now you get to make the roll ups! Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out a dry noodle. Take about 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture and spread evenly over noodles. Then roll them up carefully (don’t roll them too tight or all the ricotta will squeeze out) and place the rolls seam side down in the baking dish.
5. Ladle sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and top each one with about 1 tbsp of mozzarella cheese (have some fun here. If you like a lot of sauce, put a lot of sauce. I put just a little and saved the extra sauce to add later.)
6. Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes or until the cheese is nice and melty.
These are excellent out of the oven, but they also store really well in the fridge and reheat very well (just right in the microwave if you’re feeling low-key, but also they’d handle well in a toaster oven or regular oven). The website I got this recipe from suggests one roll as a serving, but that left me unsatisfied. I think 2 works really well for dinner, or one and a substantial side salad.