Monday, May 3, 2010
Dwight & I used to go to a particular local Italian restaurant on a semi-regular basis. It's not a dive, but I guess you could call it "shabby chic" if by "shabby" you mean "gaudy" and by "chic" you mean "knick-knacks". This place is covered with crap, walls and ceiling. Decorative umbrellas, fake flowers, macramé plant holders, gaudy "artwork", MORE fake flowers, trellis panels, and all kinds of other things I can't remember (it's been a while). This is a restaurant Dwight used to go to before we were ever dating, and he told me that it used to be even WORSE. There wasn't a bare spot in the joint. Now, at least you can see parts of the walls here and there.
But none of that matters, because the food is great. You better have reservations or get their early or you won't get a table. One of the dishes that someone at the table almost always orders are the lasagna rollups. We jokingly refer to them as "lasagna logs" but they are absolutely delicious—three rolls swimming in a sea of rich marinara. And if you're feeling extra manly, you can order it with giant meatballs. Oh, yeah.
So I've been wanting to reproduce this dish for years. I tried once and got it all wrong. I don't know what I was thinking (clearly I wasn't) but I put the rolls on their sides, like cinnamon rolls. Well, as you can imagine, if you think about that for a sec... the filling goes to the bottom and spills out everywhere. Doh.
I hadn't thought about them in a long time until I saw The Food Addict's Spinach Lasagna Rolls on Foodgawker. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. This was it, I just knew it.
And me being me, I kinda sorta followed the recipe but not really. I followed the IDEA. And what an idea it was. Let's check it out:
Part of the reason I wanted to make this particular dish when I did (a week ago) was because I had a bag of fresh spinach in the crisper drawer getting decidedly uncrispy with each passing day. A few of the leaves were already heading toward Slime Town (eew), so I fished out the good ones and gave 'em a bath.
Then I put the rinsed leaves in a microwave safe bowl and nuked them for a minute on high.
Not quite ready. So I went another minute.
Better. I wanted to pre-wilt the spinach because they give off so much water when they cook and I didn't want soggy lasagna logs, er, rolls.
I stirred them around..
Then squeeeeeesed the spinach as much as I could. Amazing what's left over! About twice this would have been ideal, but I made due.
I used whole wheat noodles in an attempt to make my love of pasta at least a bit more healthy. (They tasted great.) I cooked the noodles al dente, rinsed and drained to cool and set them out on wax paper.
I layered them with the cheese mixture (recipe below) and the spicy Italian sausage I cooked while the noodles boiled and the sauce simmered...
then the wilted spinach...
finally the sauce ("recipe" to follow).
I rolled them up (photos by Dwight)...
Then placed them in a 9x13 dish with some sauce in the bottom, layered more sauce all over the top...
then topped each roll with cheese. This cheese:
You can wait to add the cheese about 15 minutes in if you want to avoid over browning it. Bake at 350°F for a metal pan, 325°F for glass, for 20-30 minutes.
Grab a spatula, dish them out with a side of fresh green beans and you've got yourself one tasty meal. MAN, these were good. Really, really good. Give them a shot!
The Recipes (makes 8 rolls)
You can easily make this vegetarian by eliminating the meat or using a meat substitute. I LOVE Morningstar Farm's sausage crumbles. It's the bomb. (I use it on my pizza!)
Add more spinach (I will next time). Add a layer of sauteed mushrooms. Go crazy!
Please feel free to use whatever sauce you prefer, your own or jar of choice. My grocery store had the large cans of Dei Fratelli tomato products on sale for $1 each (I know!) so I decided to make my own.
Please note that most of these measurements are approximate as I was tossing in spices willy nilly.
Also, I had tons left over which is either good or bad. Good, because I also had lots of sausage left over so I had instant meat sauce for a quick pasta dinner. Bad if you're not good with leftovers.
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 scant Tbsp "garlic pepper" - a salt-free blend I found that has dehydrated garlic bits with other spices
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
Combine, bring to a slow boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook about 20-30 minutes, while you're fixing the other parts.
1 8 oz. container ricotta cheese (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (forgot this ingredient when I first published this post-sorry for the omission!)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
Mix all thoroughly. I made 8 rolls but had enough cheese leftover for at least one more.