Those close to me may claim that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. A more negative person may even use the term “Type A,” but I prefer to refer to myself as thorough. Whatever you want to call it, there’s one thing that’s certain: I’m not a fan of shortcuts. This is especially true in the kitchen. I feel incomplete if I use a store-bought-item that I could easily make myself. If the semi-homemade dish tastes good, sure I will enjoy it, but in the back of my mind there’s a nagging voice asking how much better it could have been. How much better it should have been.
Before you throw the even less-flattering label of “crazy” at me, know that there are times when I go against my better judgement and…cheat. Yes, people, okay? I let myself cheat. It feels so good to say it out loud. Regardless of kitchen values, there are certain situations where a girl needs to catch a break. For instance, this past Christmas I was elbow-deep in galette dough in preparation for Christmas day, and knew I didn’t have time for another from-scratch recipe for Christmas Eve. What’s a girl to do in such a predicament? Find an impressive-looking dish that uses simple (read: not time-consuming) ingredients of course, then make the magic happen…quickly.
Lasagna Roll Ups
Based on Gina from SkinnyTaste’s “Spinach Lasagna Rolls”
- 12 lasagna noodles, cooked
- 10-ounces frozen chopped spinach (organic HIGHLY recommended)
- 15-ounces part-skim ricotta
- 2 cloves minced garlic (Go ahead and buy the pre-minced jar. You know you want to)
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- Half-cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- Kosher salt to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- One jar (23.5-ounces) good quality pasta sauce (That’s right, it’s just sauce from a jar. I could have made it from scratch, but that Giada De Laurentiis knows what she’s doing, so I bought it and poured. Such a cheater.)
- Half-cup shredded mozzarella
Preheat oven to 300 degrees
A word about frozen spinach: sometimes it’s gross. I know this, and through trial and error I’ve found that organic varieties taste normal and act well in recipes, whereas conventional can have a strange…almost fishy taste. Yes, fishy. Does “fishy” belong in your pasta? Not this one, nope, so pay the extra $1 to $1.50 for the organic variety. Why choose frozen in the first place? If you have time and don’t mind de-stemming, chopping, and cooking spinach, then go for fresh, but because this post is about honesty, I want you to know that I bought frozen. Don’t look at me like that, it turned out well, and we all do it sometimes.
So anyway, what to do with the frozen spinach? Let it thaw by putting it in the fridge for a day or two, or set it out on the countertop for a morning. Once the spinach is thawed, set a towel on the counter, place the spinach on it, and top it with another towel. Push down with all the might you can muster, then set something heavy (text books from college? sure. cast iron pot? even better) on top of the towel. Let it sit for about 10 minutes while you find something else productive to do.
Once your spinach is prepared, use a fork to combine it with the ricotta, parmesan, garlic, basil, egg, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Place wax paper, parchment paper, or aluminum foil on a surface where you have some room to do your thing. Place the cooked lasagna noodles on the surface, then scoop one heaping spoonful of the ricotta mixture onto each noodle and spread evenly.
Carefully roll each lasagna noodle, making sure it is tight enough to stick together, but not so tight that the mixture squeezes out. Think of how you rolled up sleeping bags after sleepovers when you were a kid…or when you go camping in the wilderness, cause, you know…I totally do cool stuff like that all the time.
Pour one cup of delicious, high-quality, jar of cheater sauce into a 9×13 inch pan, then place the lasagna rolls, seam-side down, on top of the sauce. They should fit well with three across. Pour the remaining sauce over all the noodles, and use a wooden spoon to distribute it evenly. Sprinkle with the mozzarella, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and then pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes.
When the rolls come out of the oven, the cheese should be fully melted, the sauce bubbly, and the scent inviting. Each roll is surprisingly filling, with a good balance of salty cheeses, a light hint of garlic, and just the right amount of spinach.
I know the question on your mind…do I feel guilty? No, I do not, because I LOVED it, and that’s the truth. Not only were the lasagna rolls super tasty, but they also allowed me time to play with my nephews and dominate at Wii Bowling. The boy was a big fan of the lasagna rolls as well, and ate two of them rather quickly (a sure sign of a winner). In fact, when I told him I was writing about the rolls tonight, he misunderstood and responded, “What? You’re MAKING those tonight? Yes!” No dear, sorry, but don’t worry, you have them in your memory, and you’ll probably have them again in real life when the next wave of rebellion hits this girl.