As we have documented quite well here on the blog, Crist and I are big fans of pasta. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive – and there are about a million things you can do with it! One pasta dish we have yet to venture into, though, is lasagna. I love lasagna quite a bit – though it DOES sort of take away the “quick” element of most pasta dishes. Despite my love for lasagna, I typically find it to be a bit heavy. It’s just so many heavy components, all thrown into one dish, and I find that sometimes, it settles like a rock into the bottom of my stomach. Not exactly ideal.
A few months back, I stumbled across a pin on Pinterest for an artichoke lasagna – and despite the fact that the actual recipe looked SUPER heavy (pasta + bechamel + LOTS of cheese of many varieties), the idea really intrigued me. I love artichokes, and I especially love them in pasta dishes, so I decided I was going to make my own version of an artichoke lasagna – and this past weekend, I did just that! Now, obviously, I wouldn’t have decided to write and make this recipe if I didn’t think it was going to be good – but honestly, I did not expect it to be THIS good. This lasagna may have earned the crown for being the Most Loved Pasta Dish to ever grace our tabletop… and that is actually saying A LOT. My husband ate two GIANT pieces on Friday night, we each it ate it for lunch on Saturday, and he had another piece as a “snack” last night (I will refrain from complaining about how unfair it is that he can eat a giant serving of lasagna as a “snack”, and his pants are STILL too big. I am not bitter), and he packed another piece for lunch today. He is officially obsessed, and I’m not sure I can blame him. I ended up making a red sauce, instead of a white sauce – I love a good bechamel, but I do find them to be incredibly heavy, and best in small doses. I also added in some spinach to bulk up the nutrition, as well as add color and flavor!
Now, this lasagna DOES involve a fair amount of ingredients – but it’s nothing unusual, or hard to find, and there’s a decent chance you might have a good deal of the ingredients in your pantry already. Additionally, despite the large-ish list of ingredients, this lasagna comes together pretty quickly. I would venture to say it took about 40 minutes to assemble (keep in mind that I was writing the recipe as I was going, so there was a lot more stopping and tasting than normal), and another 40 to cook and cool. Not too shabby, especially for a lasagna.
Spinach Artichoke Lasagna
makes 6-8 LARGE portions
For the sauce:
1 T olive oil
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 T anchovy paste (DO NOT FEAR the anchovies! They do not taste like fish, just… kind of nutty and salty. If you are totally repulsed by this, feel free to leave it out)
salt and pepper
For the filling:
about 20oz whole milk ricotta (approximately 1.5 of the 15 ounce containers, give or take)
16 oz box/bag of frozen, chopped spinach – thawed and all excess moisture squeezed out
1 can of artichoke hearts, packed in water, chopped
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
pinch of kosher salt, if needed
For lasagna assembly:
Spinach artichoke filling
1/2 pound lasagna noodles (no-boil are preferred, but it’s up to you)
1 1/4 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1.) Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion, and saute until translucent, then add garlic, and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season onions and garlic with a small pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.
2.) Add all three cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, and anchovy paste, and stir until everything is well-combined. Season again with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.
3.) Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes, while you assemble everything else for your lasagna, until it has thickened nicely.
To make the filling:
1.) Start by thawing your frozen spinach in the microwave. Once it is thawed, let it cool for a few minutes, until you can handle it without burning your hands.
2.) Dump your spinach into a clean kitchen towel (or about 5 layers of paper towel), gather up the edges of the towel, and gently squeeze the liquid from the spinach over your sink. Keep squeezing until you cannot squeeze any more liquid out – and then give it one more squeeze, just for good measure. You want to remove as much of the liquid from the spinach as humanly possible – so it doesn’t make your lasagna all watery!
3.) Drain your artichokes well, and chop them into about 1/2″ pieces.
4.) In a mixing bowl, combine your ricotta, artichokes, spinach, parmesan cheese, egg, and black pepper, until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Once everything is mixed together, give it a quick taste – if it tastes a touch bland, then add a pinch of kosher salt and mix it in. If it tastes rich and delicious, you don’t need anymore salt (the parmesan cheese adds a good amount of salt – so you don’t always need to add more). If you are scared to taste the mixture because of the raw egg (to which I say: how do you test your raw cookie dough when you bake?! A travesty, I tell you), then just add a small pinch of salt to your filling for good measure, and carry on.
Assembling the lasagna:
1.) Preheat your oven to 375°. In a 9×13 pan, start by spooning about 1/3 of your tomato sauce into the bottom. Spread it evenly around the bottom of the dish.
2.) Next, layer in some lasagna noodles, doing your best to cover the entire pan (I had to break some noodles in half lengthwise to cover the pan, without overlapping).
3.) On top of your noodles, put about 1/3 of your ricotta cheese mixture, and spread it out over the noodles as evenly as you can (this is another reason why no-bake noodles are awesome – since they are still rigid, it’s easier to spread your ricotta mixture onto them).
4.) Top your ricotta mixture with 1/3 of your shredded mozzarella (once again, I will plead with you to PLEASE shred your own cheese – it melts so much better, and TASTES so much better than the pre-shredded stuff).
5.) Repeat steps 1-4 twice, until all of your ingredients are used up!
6.) If you have an olive oil mister, lightly mist the top of the lasagna with some oil – it will help keep the cheese moist, and also help it brown up nicely. You can also dot the top of the lasagna with small pieces of butter (about 1/2 T total) if you prefer.
7.) Place your pan of lasagna onto a rimmed baking sheet covered in foil – my pan was REALLY, REALLY full, and I knew it would bubble over and create a huge mess in my oven if I didn’t put it on to a baking sheet. Using a rimmed baking sheet also makes it easier to pull the lasagna in and out of the oven, as it is HEAVY, and I sometimes struggle to get a good grip on the tiny edges of most baking/casserole dishes.
8.) Bake for about 35 minutes, until the cheese on top is golden brown in spots, and the lasagna is bubbling around the edges. Let the lasagna stand for about 10 minutes to firm up, before cutting and serving.
As I said, this lasagna is SO GOOD. It’s rich, it’s delicious, it’s filled with tons of flavor – but best of all, it’s not heavy at all! The spinach and artichokes add a lot of flavor, without a lot of heft. If you were desperate to put some meat into this, you could add some shredded chicken or ground turkey to the pasta sauce, but I truly don’t think you need it, as I think the meat would detract from the flavor of the tomatoes and spinach and artichokes (I especially would not use a pork or beef product in the sauce – I think the intensity of the flavors of those meats would completely overpower the delicate flavor of the artichokes).
This recipe makes a BIG lasagna – we cut ours into 9 big pieces, and I am still a little shocked that my husband was able to eat more than one in a sitting. It’s great to make on a Sunday afternoon, so that you’ll have plenty of leftovers for weekday lunches. Of course, you could also double the recipe for a BIG crowd, as well. This recipe also works well to make ahead – you can assembled the entire lasagna, and refrigerate it (covered and unbaked) up to 2 days. Just pop it into the oven when you’re ready for it!
The anchovies aren’t going to bite you, I promise,