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(Serves 6 - two rolls per person)
Béchamel sauce, or balsamella as it is called in Italian, is used in many Italian baked dishes. It is a necessity in the lasagna of Northern Italy where it is layered with traditional Bolognese or meat sauce. In this recipe, both béchamel and tomato sauce are layered with a creamy ricotta cheese and spinach filling rolled in pasta. The result is a delicious vegetarian entree. If desired, you can add shredded cooked chicken, meat or sausage to the filling for a non-vegetarian dish.
Béchamel Sauce: 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 tablespoon flour 1 cup whole or reduced-fat milk Salt and pepper Pinch ground nutmeg
Lasagna Filling: 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves* 1 (15-ounce) container whole or skim milk ricotta cheese 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded or finely chopped 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 egg, beaten Salt and pepper Pinch grated nutmeg
12 lasagna noodles 2 cups marinara sauce, divided 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese for topping 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese for topping
* Alternately you can use one 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach. Thaw the spinach and squeeze out as much water as possible.
To make the Béchamel Sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour; cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk; bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the sauce is thick and smooth; remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper; sir in the nutmeg. Set the sauce aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spinach in batches, turning it several times, until it is all wilted. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board; allow to cool. Coarsely chop the spinach; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled spinach with the remaining lasagna filling ingredients. Cook the lasagna noodles in boiling salted water for the time indicated on the package. Arrange the drained noodles on parchment paper or baking sheets to prevent sticking.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Spread the Béchamel Sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
Spread about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta filling evenly over each lasagna noodle. Starting at one short end, roll each noodle up. Arrange the lasagna rolls, seam side down without touching, on the bechamel sauce. Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble. Remove the foil and bake about 15 minutes more, until the topping is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Heat the remaining cup of marinara sauce. Serve the lasagna rolls with the additional sauce alongside.