There’s something intrinsic about lasagna that makes it such a wonderful winter meal. It’s more than likely that oodles of cheesiness has something to do with how a great lasagna can warm the soul on cold winter nights, very much like how soup has the same effect, but I think that the right recipe can do so much more. The right recipe creates memories. It evokes memories of crowded Sunday dinners at the grandparents’, of a hearty meal after a day of sledding or ice skating, of a full buffet table at a christening or anniversary party. This spinach lasagna recipe is that type of recipe.
Made with a creamy béchamel sauce, three types of cheese, fresh spinach, and no-boil noodles that you’ll soften with hot water before using, this lasagna is a big hit around here. It’s a fun recipe to make with a helper since there are a few steps, but the effort is well-worth the end result. Layer after layer goes in the baking dish and after 20 minutes of baking and a few minutes under the broiler to brown-up the cheesy top layer, you’ve got truly the best spinach lasagna ever. We’ve made this recipe a handful of times in the past year and always get the same reaction from whomever we serve it to: more please! This is definitely a recipe we keep in our book of favorites and don’t hesitate to serve time and time again.
source: The New Best Recipe, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated
For the Spinach:
- 1 tbsp table salt
- 20 oz fresh spinach (two 10-oz bags), rinsed
For the Béchamel:
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 5 large shallots, minced (about 1 cup)
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (generous 1 tablespoon)
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg or 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 oz grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
For the Cheeses and Pasta:
- 8 oz whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp table salt
- 12 no-boil lasagna noodles from 1 box
- 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
- 8 oz Italian fontina cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
- To prepare the spinach: Fill large bowl with ice water. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven or stockpot over high heat; add salt and spinach, stirring until spinach is just wilted, about 5 seconds. Using skimmer or fine-mesh strainer, transfer spinach to ice water and let stand until completely cool, about 1 minute, then drain spinach and transfer to clean kitchen towel. Wrap towel tightly around spinach to form ball and wring until dry. Chop spinach medium and set aside.
- To make the béchamel: Melt 5 tbsp butter until foaming in medium saucepan over medium heat; add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 1/2 minutes. Do not brown. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, whisk in bay leaves, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Whisk in Parmesan and discard bay leaves. Transfer sauce to bowl, press plastic wrap directly against surface, and set aside.
- To prepare the cheeses and pasta: Blend cottage cheese, egg, and salt in food processor or blender until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl and set aside. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Place noodles in 13- by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish and cover with hot tap water; let soak 5 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on kitchen towel. Wipe baking dish dry and grease with remaining 1 tbsp butter.
- To assemble: Use rubber spatula to distribute 1/2 cup béchamel in bottom of baking dish; position 3 noodles on top of sauce. Stir spinach into remaining béchamel in bowl, mixing well to break up clumps of spinach (you should have about 4 cups spinach/béchamel mixture). Spread 1 cup spinach mixture evenly over noodles, sprinkle evenly with Parmesan, and top with 3 more noodles. Spread 1 cup spinach mixture evenly over noodles, sprinkle evenly with 1 cup fontina, and top with 3 more noodles. Spread 1 cup spinach mixture evenly over noodles, followed by cottage cheese mixture. Finish with 3 noodles, remaining cup spinach mixture, and remaining cup of fontina. Lightly spray large sheet foil with cooking spray and cover the lasagna. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes, then remove the foil. Remove the pan and adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Broil lasagna until cheese is spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.