This is a recipe for those days when you want comfort food without the stodge of winter. It’s a lasagne, but it’s meat-free and made light with ricotta. It’s the sort of dish where you can have a second helping without collapsing in a food coma.
This spinach and ricotta lasagne is so good it’s in danger of toppling my favourite springtime asparagus version from its throne. I’ll be making it on repeat. Some recipes exclude tomatoes but I’ve used them here because I think they provide the touch of acidity needed to stop the whole thing tasting bland. You can pre-make the tomato sauce if you want less to do on the day you eat.
The lasagne freezes well, too, so it’s worth making double. Just defrost in the fridge overnight and bring it to room temperature before cooking. If you’re in a hurry and want to cook from frozen, reduce the oven temperature to 180C/160 fan and cook for an extra 20 minutes or until heated through. Dress a fresh green salad towards the end of the resting time and you’ve got supper sorted.
One final suggestion: if you’re using the sort of lasagne sheets that don’t need pre-cooking, make the béchamel a little looser, as it sucks up more sauce. But please don’t swamp the lasagne in any of the sauces … as with much Italian cooking, less is more.
You’ll need a deep dish roughly 27cm x 20cm.
Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne
80g grated Parmesan, plus 1 or 2 tbsp for the topping
1 onion, peeled and chopped
400g spinach, washed and dried
2 tbsp oil
1 x quantity of béchamel sauce (add a healthy grind of nutmeg)
1/2 (0.5) x quantity of tomato sauce (leave out the chilli)
Heat the oven to 200C/180 fan/400F/Gas Mark 6.
Tip the ricotta into a sieve over the sink and leave it to drain.
Heat the oil in a deep pan and fry the onion gently until soft and golden. Scoop out and set aside.
Wilt the spinach in the same pan with the lid on. Remove to a sieve and when it’s cool enough, squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Chop it roughly.
Put the drained ricotta in a bowl, add 80g of grated Parmesan, the spinach and onion and stir well. Season well with salt and pepper.
Put a barely-there layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of your dish, add a layer of pasta (pre-boiled and part-cooked if necessary), followed by a third of the spinach/ricotta mixture. Now add a good drizzle of béchamel, but don’t drown it.
Repeat until you have three layers of pasta, ending with a thicker layer of béchamel. Sprinkle with the extra Parmesan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until piping hot and golden brown on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.