Sunday, April 12, 2009

Giada's Lasagna Rolls (10/6)

Lasagna Rolls
I haven't had too many successful lasagne runs, so this recipe appealed to me when I first saw Giada make it on her show a few years ago. Instead of layering the components of the dish, this recipe calls for a filling of ricotta, prosciutto and spinach to be spread onto individual lasagna noodles. These are then rolled up before being sandwiched between a b├ęchamel sauce and a simple marinara sauce and baked.

What I love about the dish is its format; having twelve defined sections makes it really easy to pack and reheat. I've made this several times, and though I've yet to perfect the recipe to my liking I think it's pretty acceptable. Usually I just have a problem with the sodium. I remember my human physiology professor telling us to avoid two things in life: salt and stress. So while I never hesitate when it comes to rich, full flavors (whole milk, heavy cream, and oh gods the cheeses) I tend to scrimp on seasoning sometimes.

Thus when it comes to this recipe, which calls for three ounces of prosciutto, I find it can be a bit bland because I underseason. I buy prosciutto di Parma, which is more mild than domestic prosciutto, but I still think, "'s got enough salt." But honestly, that can get lost amid all the components. Just be sure to salt and taste the filling before assembly. For the marinara sauce I use a recipe from Giada's wonderful book "Giada's Family Dinners," which like all her books are full of simple and elegant dishes.

Lasagna Rolls

Lasagna Rolls
from Giada de Laurentiis

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1 large egg, beaten to blend
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups marinara sauce (recipe follows)
1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)

Quick Marinara Sauce
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice
1 bunch fresh basil, stemmed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over
medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the
milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes
to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt,
pepper, and nutmeg into the bechamel sauce.

To make the marinara: In a blender, add both cans of tomatoes (mine can only take one can at a time, so I do it in batches) and puree with the basil. Set aside. Heat the oil over medium in a large saucepan. Saute the onions and garlic until very tender, then stir in tomato puree and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and then reduce the heat to medium. Allow the sauce to bubble until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes with the occasional stir. Season to taste. Yield: about 6 cups. Freeze the remainder in 1-cup portions to pull out and reheat as needed.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, prosciutto, egg, salt, and
pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain.
Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent
them from sticking.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce
over the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a
work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture
evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a
jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching,
atop the bechamel sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles
and ricotta mixture.

Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna
rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan
over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated
through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake
until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let
stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in
a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until hot and serve

Lasagna Rolls

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