So, I’m not really sure what to call this dish. “The Best Lasagna Ever” is a bit subjective, right? “Roasted Red Pepper, Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna with Whole Wheat Pasta” sounds like a carnivore’s worst nightmare and fails to mention the chunks of Italian-style chicken sausage simmered into the sauce. “Homemade Lasagna” doesn’t sound right either. If I’m giving you a recipe for it, isn’t it homemade by default?
Perhaps I should just tell you about this “Ultimate Lasagna,” a carb and cheese-lovers favorite casserole that I created from many different recipes. It features layers of homemade chunky tomato sauce, homemade whole wheat pasta, homemade ricotta cheese blended with sautéed spinach, roasted red peppers and mushrooms and a generous helping of a combination of smoked mozzarella and regular mozzarella. It sounds complex, like a fan of Old English literature, but it’s not. It’s perfection in casserole form, if I do say so myself.
The great part about this dish is that you don’t have to make every component from scratch. I probably wouldn’t have made my own pasta, ricotta and sauce and roasted my own red peppers except for the fact that I am on spring break and nobody’s around, so the kitchen has become my best friend. If you’re pressed for time, you can just as easily use prepared ingredients, or prepare the sauce, ricotta and veggies a couple days beforehand. The components are pretty easy to make, even the pasta–but it all takes time. Fortunately, I think the finished product is well worth your time.
1 recipe ricotta (or 1 15-oz container)
6 oz fresh spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper
1 recipe tomato sauce (I added 1/2 can tomato paste to thicken)
2 chicken, turkey or regular sausages (I used Italian-style chicken)
2 roasted red peppers, diced
2 Portabella mushroom caps, stem & gills removed, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper
Whole Wheat Noodles
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or, 1 cup wheat & 1/2 cup white)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used 1/2 regular mozzarella and 1/2 smoked mozzarella)
- Add 2 diced sausages to tomato sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Let cool, then mix in a medium bowl mix together ricotta, spinach, egg, parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In the same skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add mushroom pieces and sauté about 5 minutes, or until soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 375. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles.
- Mix together flour and salt in a shallow dish. Make a well in the center of the flour and add egg and water.
- Beat the egg and into the flour with a fork until the dough comes together, then use your hands to knead it. Roll into a ball and let rest for 20-25 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 9 even pieces and roll each piece into a 9×3″ rectangle. Place the noodles aside, storing in 3 layers of 3 noodles. Cover each with a piece of damp paper towel.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×9″ baking dish.
- Place three noodles in the pot and boil about 30 seconds. Remove from the water, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and layer on top of the tomato sauce.
- Spread about 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, followed by 1/2 of the peppers and mushrooms, 1/3 cup of mozzarella and then another 1/3 of tomato sauce.
- Repeat the process to make another layer–you should have used up the peppers/mushrooms and ricotta and have 3 more noodles, 1/3 tomato sauce and 1/3 cup mozzarella remaining.
- Boil the last noodles and layer on top of the tomato sauce. Spread the remaining tomato sauce on top then sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Place an oil-coated piece of aluminum foil over the lasagna and bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned. Cool 15 minutes before cutting & serving.