Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach

Continuing our discussion of best potluck main dishes, I’ve got another one that I like to break out when I want to impress.

Okay, who am I kidding — I always want to impress at a potluck. I want everyone to look from afar and say, “Who is that girl? She’s captivating!”

“And her layers of cheese and meat are enchanting!”

This is my absolute favorite lasagna ever(!) and it comes to us from Gourmet (RIP!). It combines everything that I love in a single bite: A flavor packed, vegetable-laden bolognese, a creamy sauce, melted cheese, tender pasta, and a very flavorful ground beef. All of the best aspects of pasta, layered together a single dish.

You’ve got a little drool on the corner of your mouth. Yeah. Right there.

I’m going to post the original version of the recipe with the caveat that I change some of the ingredients into the lower fat versions (1% milk, lean ground beef). The issue that I run into with using the lower fat versions of things is that the lasagna ends up a little drier than the “fat version” might be. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not like cardboard or anything. It’s still moist and the noodles are tender and the cheese is fantastic. The taste is really incredible. But by substituting the whole milk ricotta, whole milk and ground beef chuck, you do lose a little bit when you translate with healthier products. I personally don’t care because the taste is amazing and I don’t feel like I’ve dumped heavy lead in my gut after eating a slice, but that’s me. What you prefer is up to you.

Lasagne Bolognese with Spinach

Adapted from Gourmet

Bolognese

1/4 cup olive oil

3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 celery rib, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 pounds ground beef chuck (not lean)

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

Ricotta:

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed

2 (15-ounce) containers whole-milk ricotta

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

3/4 cup whole milk, divided

For assembling lasagne:

12 Barilla no-boil dried lasagne noodles (from 1 box)

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Prepare the sauce: Heat oil in a 12- to 14-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden and softened, 12 to 15 minutes.

Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any lumps, until meat is no longer pink, 6 to 10 minutes.

Stir in wine, milk, tomato paste, thyme, 1/4 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist, about 1 hour.

Ricotta filling:Put spinach in a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and twist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Note: I used my wire strainer for this, and pressed down on the spinach with dry paper towels. I’ve tried both methods now and like using the strainer better.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Transfer 1 1/2 cups ricotta mixture to another bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup milk; set aside. Whisk spinach into remaining filling with remaining 1/2 cup milk.

Assemble and bake lasagne: Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Soak noodles in a bowl of very warm water until pliable but not softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Place on a kitchen towel (it’s not necessary to pat noodles dry). Spread 1 1/2 cups bolognese sauce in baking pan and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp parmesan. Cover with 3 noodles, leaving space in between.

Note: I cut this recipe in half and baked it in an 8×8 pan, so my layers look a little different.

Spread half of spinach filling on top, then 1 cup bolognese sauce, and top with 1 Tbsp parmesan and 3 noodles; repeat.

Top with remaining bolognese sauce, 1 Tbsp parmesan, and remaining 3 noodles. Pour reserved ricotta mixture over top and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan.

Cover pan tightly with buttered foil and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is browned in spots, about 15 minutes more. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

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