Spinach Lasagna to make Popeye Proud!

As a child I really liked Popeye the Sailor Man (perhaps it was a strange crush on the guy with big muscles who loved his veggies!); as a result, I still get the show’s melody in my head when I cook with spinach. This recipe is a lighter take on the usual over-creamy, not-so-spinach-fresh, 500 calorie per serving lasagna. Because Popeye was all about being strong and healthy I think he’d enjoy this – you have bright green spinach that finally takes center stage, bubbly cheese, and a light cottage cheese based filling. I made this for a family lunch and everyone enjoyed it.

Serve with crusty bread and a fresh green salad. Wine suggestion: a light Italian Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 2 shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups 1%  low-fat milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 (10-ounce) pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, and chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Pepper

Noodle Layers

  • 8 ounces whole-milk cottage cheese (1 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles (highly suggest Barilla)
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1  1/2 cups Italian fontina cheese, shredded (if you have trouble finding this cheese, mozzarella can be substituted)

Instructions

1.  Cook the sauce first: Combine the shallots, olive oil and a dash or two of salt in a large saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 2 3/4 cups of the milk, bay leaves and nutmeg.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

2.  Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup milk together, then whisk into the pot.  Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 6 minutes.  Off the heat, remove and discard bay leaves.  Stir in the spinach and Parmesan until incorporated and no clumps of spinach remain.  Season with S/P to taste, cover to keep warm, and set aside.

3.  Adjust an oven rack to be 6 inches from the broiler element, adjust a second oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 425 degrees.

4.  Next, prepare the cottage cheese mix: Process the cottage cheese, egg and salt in a food processor until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

5.  Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a 9×13 broiler-safe baking dish, then add the noodles one at a time.  Let the noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating them with the tip of a sharp knife to prevent sticking.  Remove the noodles from the water and place in a single layer on a clean kitchen towel.  Discard the water, dry the baking dish, and coat the interior with cooking spray.

6.  Finally, assemble and bake: Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking dish.  Position 3 of the noodles on top of the sauce. Spread a thin layer of sauce evenly over the noodles, to cover completely. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan and top with 3 more noodles. Spread another layer of sauce and sprinkle fontina, top with 3 more noodles. Repeat another layer of sauce, followed by the cottage cheese mixture. Finish with the remaining 3 noodles, remaining sauce, and remaining fontina.

7.  Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna on the middle oven rack until bubbling, about 20 minutes.  Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil.  Heat the broiler.  Transfer the baking dish to the upper oven rack and broil the lasagna until the cheese is spotty brown & crisp, about 5 minutes – watch so you don’t burn the cheese!  Let the lasagna cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Serves: 8

Recipe source: Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Time: ~1 hour

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2 thoughts on “Spinach Lasagna to make Popeye Proud!

    • thequickanddirtycook June 19, 2011 / 3:54 PM

      Why thank you! I hope you enjoy!

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