Lasagna Roll-ups

I have a weakness for lasagna whenever I go to an Italian restaurant. I can't help it. It doesn't matter that there are many other dishes on the menu that sound delicious or that I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to make at home (something I try to make sure I usually get at any other type of restaurant). Yet I simply see the word 'lasagna' on the menu with its layers of cheese and marinara and sausage and some gene way down in the recesses of my DNA gets turned on and starts pumping out messages to my brain to make the neurotransmitters go go go and my mouth starts drooling and my brain instantly says: LASAGNA...MUST HAVE LASAGNA ...ORDER LASAGNA NOW!!!

So, inevitably, I do (what's a girl to do when she's up against her own DNA?!). This same thing happens to me when I see an eggplant parmesan sandwhich (at lunchtime) or fried calamari on a menu too. Mmmm...fried calamari.

I've made a lasagna at home once or twice, sure, but it's never been had the same effect on me as ordering it out. I do like to make it however: layering on the noodles and ricotta and cheese is pure culinary enjoyment. Recently, however, I was flipping swiftly through the channels (I'm not a big TV watcher) and lo and behold, out from the TV floated that sacred word: lasagna... I stopped. I went back. It was Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian. She's not usually a show that I watch, but she was making Lasagna Rolls - tablespoons of ricotta, parmesan, lusty dark-green spinach and salty prosciutto spread onto lasagna noodles and rolled up into a nice little package you can really sink your fork into.

What can I say? This kicked the DNA into gear, and I promptly went out to my neighborhood grocery store and bought myself the ingredients. So I'm a slave to my DNA. Yeah, yeah. So are you! All I know is, that at least in this department, my DNA has never let me down. These are excellent. A perfect balance of cheeses, savory fillings, and sauce (sauce on the light side, just enough to add a touch of tomato flavor while allowing the other ingredients to shine).

Try Kitchen Queen's ideas for your mis en place to help everything go smoothly! Giada calls this 'fast food, the Italian way', but it takes about an hour and half! We still loved it, and I even think it would even be an impressive dish for guests.

Lasagna Rolls, adapted slightly from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Italian (tv)

Bechamel Sauce:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg (freshly ground, if you can)

8 oz of low-fat ricotta cheese (you could use whole milk ricotta instead - I'm trying to watch my 'girlish figure')
1 bag of baby spinach (I'm not sure of the size I used - whatever the normal size is)
1 cup grated parmesan
4 slices prosciutto
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 tsp. salt, plus more for salting water
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
6 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 cup marinara sauce (I just used about 1/2 can of crushed organic tomatoes with basil and oregano since I had it in the cupboard)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 450F. Fill a flat saucepan with straight sides with water. Add about a tbsp. of olive oil and a bit of salt to the water, then bring to a boil. Add a few lasagna noodles to the pan (I had to do two at a time, and each of mine are only 1/2 rolls because my pan is not that big - that's why they aren't big and voluptuous up there in the picture, but they were still tasty, I promise).

While this is cooking, place the entire bag (or you could also use thawed frozen spinach if you want to) into a saute pan and saute until wilted with a tiny splash of water. Once wilted, squeeze as much of the extra water out as possible and chop. Add this to a small bowl with the ricotta, 1/4 cup of parmesan, about 1/2 of the egg (I halved the recipe because I was just cooking for two people - you could always double it if you have more people to feed, then you wouldn't have to waste the other half - we just give it to our dogs), salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, and set aside.

Remove the cooked noodles from the pan when they are al dente, or just tender but still firm to the bite (about 8 min.) and place them in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet (or non-stick foil if you want to save oil and dishes). Add more noodles to the pan and repeat as these become al dente.

Rinse and dry the pan you used to saute the spinach, and begin cooking the bechamel sauce (the sauce is REALLY good). Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 min. Whisk in the milk, and increase the heat to medium-high. Keep whisking until the sauce is simmering and becomes thick (she says about 3 minutes, but it took more like 5-7 for mine...but I think I forgot to turn up the heat too). Whisk in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

At this point, all your noodles should be about finished. When they are, butter a glass baking dish and pour the bechamel in until it forms a layer about 1/2 of an inch or so thick on the bottom of your dish (or heck, just throw the whole thing in there). Then put about 3 tbsp. of ricotta mixture spread out on each lasagna noodle and pat down with a spoon or your hand (not too thick!). Starting at one end, roll the noodle up. Lay each roll into the baking dish with the seam side down, not touching, and repeat until all your noodles are used up. Spoon marinara over the rolls in a line across the top, then sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining parmesan.

Cover tightly with foil, then bake through until the sauce bubbles (about 20 min). Remove the foil and bake for another 10 until the cheese becomes golden. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Perfect with a salad, some crusty bread for sopping up any extra sauce, and a glass of red wine. We also had some rosemary olive oil cured California olives with it. Giada serves it with extra warmed marinara on the side, but we actually liked it without. Enjoy!

12 comments from you:

Linda said...

Despite having zero italian DNA, that screams good eats to me!

MM said...

Holy cow, I'm hungry now!

Kitchen Queen said...

That's known as the Garfield gene in our house, Michelle, and I think we all have it! That recipe sounds wonderful!

And thanks for the mention in this post - I'm honored!

ilva said...

When you come here I'll make you lasagne! A lot of it! All (almost) Italians love lasagne, I wasn't that fond of it before but I have learnt to love it! And I must compliment you on the pretty, frilly pasta you use!

rob said...

Michelle, I'm a sucker for lasagna too. I still remember the first time I had lasagna in Bologna -- oh, that was so good.

Looking at the beautifully browned topping on your dish is making my mouth water.

Nerissa said...

My family has a much simpler version of this. We've been eating for over a decade. It pretty much involves wrapping cooked lasagne noodles around a mix of cottage cheese, parmesan, egg, nutmeg, parsley, salt and pepper PLUS dropping a jar of premade pasta sauce over top.
Yours sounds far more decadent and "grown-up". While I'm a big fan of my mom's, I'll give this a whirl some time and pass on the recipe to my mother to see what she and the family think.

Paz said...

Yum, yum, yum! Being a slave to one's DNA isn't so bad, is it? ;-) I saw this particular Giada show, too.


vlb5757 said...

The rolls look lovely. Since I can't eat as much cheese as everyone else, I use silked tofu and run it through the food processor to make it smooth like the ricotta. Works great and hub has no idea! I do use some cheese on the top, can't fool hubby on that one. I am like you but with Eggplant Parm everywhere I go. I have to try them all and see which verision I like the best. Isn't testing fun??

michelle said...

Hi Linda! I don't have any Italian in me either, but LB has enough for us both! ;)

Hi MM! I'm STILL hungry!

Hi Kitchenqueen! Ha Ha - that's a perfect name for it! You're very welcome - I love all your little tips, so I thought it only proper to share!

Hi Ilva! I would LOVE to have you make me lasagna in Italy! Unfortunately, I have to admit that I've only seen lasagna noodles here with the frillies - but I like them too! Although, now I want to try homemade lasagna noodles - YUM.

Hi Rob! Lasagna in Bologna? I'm so jealous... And of course I picked out the brown one for the picture... :) darn stupid oven.

Hi diningdica! You're back! I'm so glad. Your version sounds good too - and easier, which is always helpful (esp. since this is supposed to be 'fast food!') Do let me know what kind of reviews you get!

Hi Paz! You're right - not in this case, anyhow!

Hi Vickie! That's a wonderful idea - I've got a friend who can't eat dairy, so what a great substitution! It is fun to test out everyone's versions of your favorites - LB and I tested as many clam chowder recipes on Cape Cod as we could find! Eggplant Parm is the best...

Lindsay said...

I stumbled across this when i was looking for the version on everyday Italian. Were the only changes you made the use of fresh spinach? I just put mine in the oven and i can smell it already!

Michelle said...

Hi Lindsay, Honestly, I don't remember!! Sorry! I hope they were enjoyable though!

Jinx said...

"(or non-stick foil if you want to save oil and dishes)"

ROFL I swear I foil every dish I bake with.

Imagine this, like 5 years later i see the exact same episode and went hunting for this recipe :P