Of all the pastas I have ever eaten spinach lasagna definitely is the best. When I ate lasagna for the first time at my cousin’s house (Thanks Deepa bhabhi for introducing me to this wonderful dish) I instantly fell in love with it. Layers of pasta, vegetables, white sauce and lots of cheese … what can go wrong with this combination. When lasagna is baking, the house smells so good. Everybody is in kitchen waiting for it to come out of the oven. And it’s healthy too. You can vary layers for different flavors. Earlier I used to make it with cottage cheese filling and mix vegetables. But when we were trying very desperately for our kids to eat some leafy vegetables my husband suggested to substitute mix vegetable layers with spinach filling. It was an instant hit in our house.
Spinach lasagna is loaded with vegetables, around two bunches of spinach, still it is the most sought after dish in our house. Cottage cheese covers my kid’s daily quota of milk which they are not having otherwise. We can also use white sauce in this recipe if desired. The best thing about this dish is that it tastes even better reheated though it is not likely that there will be any leftovers.
Lasagna with fresh homemade pasta sheets is simply a dish very hard to resist. Once you make these sheets at home you will never use store bought lasagna sheets. Lasagna takes some effort to make but the second you take a bite you will be thinking why I don’t make it more often. It is definitely worth the effort.
How to make Vegetarian Spinach lasagna
serves 4 (but even 2 will be able to finish it happily )
for tomato sauce:
5-6 red tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp ginger green chili paste
cottage cheese made from 1 liter milk (see tips if you want to learn how to make cottage cheese)
½ tsp red chili
¼ tsp oregano
½ tsp black pepper
salt to taste.
2 tbsp oil of your choice
Grind all the ingredients, except cottage cheese and spices, in a blender to a fine paste. Heat oil in a pan, add tomato mixture and spices and cook till mixture leaves sides of the pan. Now add crumbled cottage cheese ( paneer) and cook for 1 more minute. Taste the filling. I keep tomato filling a little spicy.
For spinach filling:
½ -3/4Kg spinach washed and chopped( I use 3/4 kg as we like a lot of spinach in our lasagna)
2 onions ( chopped)
salt and black pepper to taste
¼ tsp red chili
¼ tsp oregano
50 gms. Cheese
2 tbsp oil of your choice
In a large frying pan, add a little oil and fry onion until translucent. Now add spinach and cook for 10 minutes. Add salt, chili, black pepper and oregano. Grate cheese and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes.
for lasagna sheets:
1 ½ cup plain flour
1 ½ tbsp butter/oil
¼ tsp salt
water as needed
Sift flour into a mixing bowl, add salt. Rub in butter with your fingertips. Knead the dough with the help of your hands until you get smooth dough by adding in water or flour as required. Let it rest for about 15-20 minutes. Make 5 balls of the pasta dough. Roll out one ball at a time with the help of a rolling pin until you get a thin sheet.
Size of the sheet should be according to your baking dish. Cut it in half. Lasagna is cooked in the same way as any other pasta. Boil water in a large pan. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp of oil to the boiling water to keep the sheets from sticking to each other. Cook the lasagna sheets in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Turn them once after 2 minutes. Do not put all the sheets at once otherwise they will all stick together. Drain them for one minute.
150 gms mozzarella cheese
50 gms butter
In a greased baking dish arrange sheets of lasagna. Cover with half of tomato mixture and spread evenly. Now arrange second pasta sheet and cover it with half spinach mixture. Repeat with second layer of tomato mixture and spinach mixture. Cover it with fifth lasagna sheet. Spread grated mozzarella cheese over this layer evenly and dot with butter.
You can also spread a layer of white sauce on lasagna sheets if you like it extra rich. But I have found that a nice layer of mozzarella cheese adds the same flavor. Cook in oven at 280 C till the top starts to brown- around 30 minutes. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Cottage cheese- Bring milk to boil and then add juice of 1 lemon. Once the milk starts to curdle, strain it and separate from the whey. Tie the cottage cheese in a muslin cloth and let it stand for some time.
Try to roll out thin lasagna sheets as they taste better.
Do not skip on oregano because it adds an amazing flavor to lasagna.