Friday, April 17, 2009

Eating With The Seasons - April, Still Chilly!

April feels like an old car to me. The engine needs a kickstart to really get going. Most days it just sputters and dies out, resulting in bitterly cold days. Other days you can feel every nut and bolt moaning and groaning as it gets off to a shaky start, which means that you see a lot of grey skies and endless rain. Then once in a while, the good juices finally kick in and April's engine starts humming and it zips off like a teenager - and those are the days that I love, because it translates to sunny skies and warm days, filled with the scents of new grass and spring flowers.

Of course, till those days come around (remember, they've been pretty rare so far around my neck of the woods), I know I can rely on the ooey-gooey-cheesy-goodness of my Beef & Spinach Lasagne to get me through. I've decided to feature this recipe as my entry for this month's Eating With The Seasons (hosted by the lovely blogger Maninas: Food Matters) because it features a healthy dose of lovely, earthy spinach and sweet carrots. And, here's what I really like about it, it's still warm and comforting enough to get you through the chilly April weather. I think I'll also submit this for Presto Pasta Nights, because it's one of those generous events that allows you to submit one entry to multipe food blog events. Created by Ruth from Once Upon A Feast, the next round-up will be hosted by Hillary from Chew On That.

On a side note, may I just say something? I know I know, it's my blog, I can say whatever I want - well almost, but that's another story. Anyway, I digress. I wanted to give a shout-out to whoever invented the "no-boil" lasagne noodles! HIYOOOO! Those things are awesome! Why have I not been making lasagne with them my entire life?! I'll tell you why. Years ago, when I first decided to make lasagne by myself, I used a recipe that called for these so-called "no boil" lasagne sheets. Dubious at first, I trotted off to my local grocery store to hunt down these fabled noodles. And I don't know what game the Big Guy was playing with me that day, but my grocery store didn't have any such pasta, nor did the very UNhelpful grocery store clerks have a clue as to what I was talking about (pppfftttt ... teenagers!). So I just thought, this recipe is WRONG! And foolishly went back to using my regular lasagne sheets, which used to fall apart during the boiling process and were basically a pain. Recently however, I discovered the "no-boil" lasagne in my pasta aisle at the grocery store and POUNCED! One word. Genius. My lasagnas have never been better because of them. Yes yes, feel free to laugh at my expense because you've been using this product for years now, but better late than never for me, right? Right?! (note to self: learn to keep up, you idiot)

Beef and Spinach Lasagna (using the recipe from Food Mayhem - really creative, fellow New Yorkers; currently going through some site improvement. Thanks for a GREAT recipe guys!)

Meat Sauce
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound 11 ounces (90% lean) ground beef
1 (28oz) can crushed tomato with basil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf

Cheese & Spinach Filling
10 ounces frozen spinach, blanched, drained and cooled
1 pound shredded whole milk mozzarella
15oz tub of whole milk ricotta

9x13 baking dish
16 (no boil) lasagna sheets (8"x4" each)

1. Heat oil in a medium pot on medium high heat. Stir in onions, bay leaf and soften for about a minute. Add carrots and stir around for another minute. Stir in tomato paste until well distributed.
2. Add ground beef and stir around until browned, about 5 minutes.
3. Add crushed tomatoes and garlic. Bring to boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove from heat and remove bay leaf. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while meat sauce cools a bit.

Cheese & Spinach Filling:
1. Ring out spinach with paper towels.
2. In a medium sized bowl , combine spinach, mozzarella, and ricotta.
1. Spread 1 cup of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.
2. Lay 4 sheets of lasagna down.
3. Spread 1/3 of cheese and spinach filling on top of lasagna sheets. Spread a little more than 1 cup of meat sauce on top.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 two more times. Lay another layer of lasagna sheets on top. Cover with remaining meat sauce. Spread remaining cheese mixture on top. If you have parmesan, sprinkle it on top now.

5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake for another 5 minutes (I turned on the broiler for 5 mins). Take it out of the oven. Continue grinning and jumping with joy about how gorgeous it looks and smells. Let it cool for 5-10 mins, then cut yourself a big cheheeeeeesy chunk!
Verdict: Everybody loved this dish. No matter if they were 5 year olds or 50 year olds, everyone who tried this, really really enjoyed it. And it's ridiculously easy! Plus, it's got to be healthy, what with all that spinach and carrot mixed in there, right?! And let's not forget about those "no boil" noodles! I've made this lasagna several times now, and have never gone wrong with it. It feels so damn good to find a recipe that you can always count on to please any crowd.


catherine @ said...

That looks like an amazing lasagna--the spinach really does it for me.

Anonymous said...

I usually make lasagna with just spinach but it sounds awesome with beef! I will do that next time!

Foodiewife said...

It took me a while to discover the no boil lasagna noodles, too. Love 'em! This looks beautiful and I so appreciate how you photograph HOW to make this dish.. BTW, I am going to make your cheese blintzes tomorrow. I'm so excited!


Doppelganger said...

It was close to midnight when I read this. What happened then? . . . I went rummaging through my freezer and pantry, found both to be woefullly thin in privisions of any kind and wanted to cry. I wanted so badly to make lasagne then and there! So I had to make do with making Mac 'n Cheese. Yes, it was delicious! and now that I'm done eating it and it's nearly three in the A.M., I once again return to your blog. *Sigh* Lasagne!!!!!! You're evil, my friend, but I love you and forgive your devilment in playing with the gastronomic sensibilities of one who is in partial exile from her beloved kitchen.

I must also mention, the absolutely apro po metaphor of the month of April being like an old car since we too are experiencing the highs and lows of the mercury with as much frequency as my poor husband is having trouble with his old car.

Donna-FFW said...

This lasagne looks absolutely perfect. Love the spinach and meat sauce, everything about it.. Perfect dish anytime. Yes, the no boil noodles are so the best!

Poorni Pillai said...

Honestly, that looks so very I want lasagna too!!!

Muneeba said...

Shai, my respect for you grows everyday ... especially now that you've shown me what a true foodista you are by making mac n cheese at 3am!!! It's always a good time for mac n cheese baby!
Thks for all your kind words Catherine, 5 Star Foodie, Debby, Donna & Miakoda!

Sophie said...

I can't even tell the difference between the no-boil noodles and the 'traditional' ones here :), this looks great, I love adding spinach to any italian dish!

asma said...

do I wana drool at this post or what :))

Loved the whole post .. and ur writing style too :))

NKP said...

There is nothing better than a great lasagne, love all those beautiful layers!
We are having some sort of cruel Canadian hurricane right now..

Kerstin said...

What an incredible comfort food dish - I would love to curl up with a slice right now! Looks delicious!

Sweetie Pie said...

There is so much to love about that lasagna. YUMMY!! Aren't the no bake noodles great? I second your "hiyoooo!!!" :-)

Resh said...

love the photography!!! i give you a lot of credit for making lasagna, mine never turns out right!!!! yumm :)

Jessica@Foodmayhem said...

Hi Muneeba,

I'm so glad you enjoyed our Beef and Spinach Lasagana. It is definitely one of my all time favorite meals!


Muneeba said...

Thank YOU Jessica ... for putting together (and sharing with all of us) such a simple & perfect recipe :)

Jamie said...

Yummy! Love lasagna and don't make it enough. Yours has it all - cheese, meat and spinach. Usually lasagna has only one or the other, but this looks so good and so complete.

Hillary said...

Muneeba, this looks awesome!! I'm so glad you decided to enter a dish into this week's roundup so we could discover eachother's blogs. Tune in for tons of delicious dishes tomorrow!

Ruth said...

It looks wonderful and I'm glad you finally found the no boil lasagna pasta. It does make life so much simpler. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Joanne said...

I'm in love with this, and you're right it IS perfect for the still chilly April weather. No-boil lasagna noodles are great, especially when putting together lasagna to make-ahead for a crowd.

The Food hunter said...

That looks like a great lasagna. I've got to try making it.

Jessica@Foodmayhem said...

HI Muneeba,

We just added a feature on our site to feature pictures from fans who have made our recipes. You'll see your lasagna pics on our right scroll bar now. =)