I can't think of any good reasons I hadn't been making lasagna with regularity, until recently, that is. Ingredients I like? Check. Make-ahead potential? Check. Feed a crowd? Check. Lots of leftovers for harried weeknights? Check again.
Well, now I can say I have a very good reason to remedy my former neglect, and it's this recipe for Sausage, Spinach and Goat Cheese Lasagna.
My version of the family-friendly dish leans on hot Italian sausage, tangy goat cheese and fresh herbs to brighten the flavors of what can otherwise be a rich but one-note casserole. You'll still find all the hearty satisfaction, though, with three layers of noodles tucked in between a simple sauce made from canned crushed tomatoes. If you don't want to make the sauce, you can sub in your favorite marinara. You'll need 6 1/2 cups. That sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that the no-boil noodles absorb a ton of liquid. The final dish is just the right amount saucy without drowning in it.
There's plenty of room for experimenting here. Use another sausage (even vegan) or ground meat of your choice. Or leave out the meat or meat-alternative entirely, though you may want to kick up the heat in the sauce with some crushed red pepper flakes. If you find yourself with some leftover roasted vegetables, dice them and layer into the casserole along with the sauce and spinach-and-cheese filling. Play around with the herbs. It's easy to take this in any direction you like.
There's also plenty of built-in flexibility on portions. It can be made as a large casserole or split into two smaller ones, the latter of which is a perfect way to "share" a meal with friends or family. Even with the large-format pan, you'll probably end up with leftovers to enjoy now or later, which helps make up for the hour-long investment in prep.
I've even found myself assembling the lasagna faster with every test, especially once I realized I could make the filling, shred the cheese and clean up dishes while the sauce simmered. Just another reason to add this recipe to your recurring hits.
Sausage, Spinach And Goat Cheese Lasagna
Active time: 1 hour Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
10 to 12 servings (makes one 9-by-13-inch lasagna or two 8-inch squares)
This recipe is easily divided in half to create two 8-inch pans. Follow the same pattern of layering the sauce, pasta and cheese, but use 2 lasagna noodles in each of 3 layers for a total of 6 noodles per tray. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, uncovered for at least the last 15 minutes, then broil as above, if desired.
Make Ahead: The lasagna can be assembled and refrigerated 1 day in advance.
Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month and reheated in the oven or microwave. Freeze the assembled, unbaked lasagna (wrapped in its baking dish in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil) for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage (may use links, but remove the casings)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon granulated sugar, plus more as needed
10 to 12 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and liquid squeezed out
8 ounces whole-milk ricotta
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (from one 9-ounce package)
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (may substitute whole-milk mozzarella)
1/2 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a large Dutch oven, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and, using a spatula, break into larger bite-size clumps (or smaller, if you prefer) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned with no trace of pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat to a plate, leaving behind any fat in the pot.
If the pot is dry, add at least 1 more tablespoon of oil, then add the garlic, stirring until golden and fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and salt (you may wish to turn down the heat before adding the tomatoes to cut down on sputtering). Increase the heat as needed until the mixture is barely bubbling. Partially cover the pot (it tends to splatter, so just a little bit of open space will do). Cook the sauce until thickened and reduced slightly, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle bubbling. Stir in the sugar, taste, and add a little more, if desired. You can add more salt to taste as well. Stir the cooked sausage into the sauce.
While the sauce simmers, in a large bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, goat cheese, basil, oregano and a few grinds of black pepper. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg until thoroughly combined.
Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. If you want to brown the top under the broiler, place a rack in the upper third of the oven as well. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking dish at hand. (Don't use Pyrex or other glass, if you want to leave open the option to broil.)
Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking dish, then arrange 4 of the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce (the long sides of the noodles should be parallel to the short sides of the dish), slightly overlapping to ensure they all fit. Add 1 2/3 cups sauce and then half of the ricotta mixture. Dollop the ricotta mixture in 8 or 9 mounds around the dish. The heat of the sauce will soften it, and then using the back of a spoon or offset spatula, spread it as evenly as possible. Add another 4 noodles, repeating with another 1 2/3 cups of sauce and the remaining ricotta mixture. Layer on the remaining 4 noodles and 1 2/3 cups of sauce, followed by the mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Lightly coat the underside of a piece of aluminum foil with nonstick spray and cover the assembled lasagna. (At this point, the dish can be refrigerated and baked the next day.)
Bake, covered with the foil, for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. If you want additional browning or crispy edges, turn the oven broiler on, move the dish to the upper-middle rack and broil for 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown and crisp in spots.
Let the lasagna cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Nutrition (Based on 12 servings) Calories: 369; Total Fat: 21 g; Saturated Fat: 11 g; Cholesterol: 68 mg; Sodium: 732 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugar: 9 g; Protein: 19 g.
— From Washington Post staff writer Becky Krystal