4.11.2013

Spinach Lasagna with Pesto Bechamel Sauce


Guys, I am so excited to finally be sharing this dish with you! I have wanted to for so long but every time I made it, I wasn't able to take pictures of it because by the time it was ready, it was way past daylight hours. BUT thanks to the recent springing forward of our clocks, I got the chance to make it and photograph it before sunset this weekend, and I could not be happier. 


This dish, it's fabulous. It's a spin-off on Lauren's spinach and artichoke lasagna that I spotted way back in June. The first time I made it, I left the recipe as is and although it was delicious and devoured by my family within an hour, I found myself trying to avoid the bits of artichoke. So, I thought, why not make it into an entirely spinach lasagna next time?


Best.idea.ever. We have spinach in the house more often than artichokes anyways. And the rest of the ingredients are so simple that you really don't want to have to add something to the list that's not typically on hand. An extra trip to the supermarket means having to wait longer to get this lasagna in your mouth, and you certainly don't want that.


So, what's the big deal about this lasagna anyway? Well, for one, it's super easy to make. The filling takes only 10 minutes to put together, and so does the sauce. Which brings me to my second point. This sauce. Oh man, this sauce. It really takes the lasagna to another level. It is so creamy and smooth and wonderful and the added pesto gives it such an amazing flavor, not to mention an amazing aroma when it's baking. Your mouth will be watering, for sure.


Unfortunately, you have to wait 10-15 minutes for the lasagna to set before you can dig in, but it is so worth the wait. Your taste buds will rejoice in culinary ectasy. Mark my word.

Spinach Lasagna with Pesto Bechamel Sauce

Yield: One 13x9 inch pan
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Ingredients:

9 lasagna sheets
2 and 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the spinach filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 oz. fresh spinach
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt & pepper, to taste

For the bechamel sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
salt & pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon pesto, plus more to taste*

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add lasagna sheets and 2 tablespoons of oil, and cook according to package directions, or until tender but still firm. Drain and transfer to a baking dish filled with warm water.

In the same pot, add olive oil, and saute onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add spinach and let it cook down until it is wilted, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Add cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and egg, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the same pot, add butter and melt over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to incorporate; cook for 1 minute. Gradually pour in milk, whisking continously, to prevent any lumps from forming. After a couple minutes, the sauce will thicken. Add in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and pesto. Remove from heat.

To assemble lasagna, lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish. Spread 1/4 cup of the bechamel sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking dish. Lay 3 cooked lasagna noodles lengthwise over the sauce. (Make sure you pat them dry on a paper towel before laying them down) Spread half of the spinach filling over the noodles, top with 1 cup of mozzarealla cheese and 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Repeat. Lay down final three noodles, top with remaining sauce, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Cover with nonstick foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove foil and broil for about 3-5 minutes, until cheese is spotty brown. Remove from oven and let stand 10-15 minutes before serving. 

*Note: The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup pesto and when I made it the first time with that amount of freshly made pesto, it was great. However, when using 1/3 cup of store bought pesto the second time around, it was too strong for the sauce. Therefore, I've listed the amount of pesto "to taste", so you can see what works for you.
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