Classic Spinach and Arugula Lasagna
I grew up in the Chicagoland area, and Italian food had a major influence on me as a kid and teen. Our family eats pizza at least twice a week, sometimes even three times, and according to my fiancee that’s a LOT of pizza! To me, it feels like I should probably have some more. We just love it. We’re even serving pizza for the meal at our wedding from a local food truck and family business Stonewall Brick Oven Pizza. We just love it that much.
But besides pizza, there’s another Italian staple that I absolutely adore and order every time I travel back to Illinois to visit: lasagna. I grew up in Morris, Illinois; if you’ve ever been to Corleones Italian Restaurant you know how amazing their lasagna is. It’s not necessarily gourmet or anything like that, but I do love eating it. It reminds me of being a kid. This homemade lasagna recipe is a definite upgrade and tastes like you’ve just been dining at a fancy restaurant. Whole ingredients make everything better. So do spinach and arugula, if I must say!
Ingredients + Recipe
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 green or red bell pepper, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 4 oz can tomato paste
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes or 3.5 cups fresh diced tomatoes
1 cup milk or heavy cream
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese plus more for topping
1/2 cup parmesan cheese plus more for topping
2 cups fresh baby spinach and arugula
First, prepare the red meat sauce. In a skillet or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, bell pepper, and ground beef. Cook until the onions are translucent and the meat is cooked through.
Toss the meat and vegetables with oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the tomato paste and coat thoroughly. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil.
Gradually pour in the milk and whisk until it thickens and comes to a boil. Lower to a simmer and let thicken for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from heat and let settle. If you wish, you can place this in the refrigerator overnight before putting the lasagna together.
Now, make the cheese sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Toss in the flour and whisk together until a paste forms. It should turn a light brown and give off a nutty aroma.
Slowly pour in the milk, whisking as you pour, and allow it to thicken as it comes to a boil. Once boiling, slowly add the heavy cream. Continue to whisk and bring to a boil. Once thickened to your liking, remove from heat and whisk in the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan.
Prepare the homemade pasta noodles. Divide into four sections and process through the lasagna setting of a pasta machine. The noodles should be somewhat thick but still able to see your hands through when held up to light, usually on the 6 or 7 setting. Cook noodles for about 7 minutes in salty, boiling water. Remove from water and set aside.
Prepare a 9x13 baking dish or two 8x8 baking dishes by spreading some of the red sauce on the bottom of the dish. Begin to layer. First, add a layer of noodles. My homemade noodle recipes makes about two wide noodles divided in half to fit the size of a 9x13 dish.
Next, add a layer of red sauce, about 1/2 of the recipe. Top with a layer of cheese sauce, about 1/3 of the recipe. Top with 1 cup fresh baby spinach and arugula.
Repeat with a second layer of noodles, red sauce, cheese sauce, and greens.
On the third layer, top with the remaining 1/3 of cheese sauce and sprinkle the reserved mozzarella and parmesan on top. Add a dash of oregano and pepper.
Preheat your oven to 400. Spray a piece of tinfoil with cooking spray and cover the dish. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove the tinfoil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit at least 15-20 minutes to allow the layers to cool and settle. Slice into square pieces and serve warm topped with freshly grated parmesan.
How delicious does that sound? I don’t often like to brag about my cooking, but this recipe is absolutely phenomenal. You are going to love it. If you take the time to do all of the little steps and preparations, it will be well worth it. This recipes takes a few hours to complete, so if you don’t have a ton of time, you can prepare most of it ahead of time. Feel free to make both and red sauce and cheese sauce a couple of days early and store in the fridge. If you want to make the noodles ahead of time, just cut them into the size of your baking dish and dry, store in an airtight container, and then cook accordingly. You can also put the entire lasagna together, cover with foil, and place in the fridge for 3-4 days. Then bake another 10-15 minutes longer covered.
Do you love lasagna as much as me?!