When the family asks for lasagna for dinner, why not surprise them and serve them a truly delicious alternative-rolled up lasagna! Ricotta is a fresh, soft, snowy white cheese with a rich but mild, slightly sweet flavor. The texture is much like a grainy, thick sour cream American ricotta is generally made with a combination of whey and whole, low-fat, or skim cow's milk.
For the Sauce:
1 pound ground beef or ground sweet, mild, or hot Italian sausage
1 small onion diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced, more to taste if desired
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
Pinch Italian seasoning, more to taste
Handful fresh basil, snipped into smaller pieces
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
2 (24 ounce) jars Italian spaghetti sauce, your choice
For the Filling:
2 (15-ounce) containers whole or part skim ricotta cheese, drained
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry, optional
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch ground nutmeg
15-18 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente (about 12 minutes) and drained
1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, more if desired
- In a skillet, saute meat, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add tomatoes, salt, oregano, Italian seasoning, freshly snipped basil and red pepper flakes, if using; simmer for 10 minutes. Spoon half of the meat sauce into a greased 9x13x2-baking dish.
- Combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, spinach, if using, eggs,parsley, nutmeg, and onion powder. Mix well and spread about 1/4 cupful on each noodle.
- Carefully roll up and place seam side down over meat sauce. Note: Cover noodles with damp paper towel while rolling up each noodle; this keeps the noodles from drying out.
- Top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Note: Use non-stick foil or spray foil with non-vegetable spray to keep cheese from sticking to the foil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, and 10 additional minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and cover with foil to keep warm. Let stand five minutes before serving. If there is any sauce leftover, ladle into a gravy boat and serve with lasagna.
Note: In a hurry, use your favorite jars of spaghetti sauce. I like to use a jarred sauce that is more robust in flavor; thus, I add freshly snipped basil and some diced onion and garlic sauteed in a little olive oil. However, this is delicious just using the jarred sauce with no additions.
Note: These lasagna roll-ups freeze easily; just remove them a couple of hours before baking.