thrift kitchen

Thrift Kitchen: Spinach Lasagna Done Right

Over the course of my life I have tried many lasagna recipes. Think of Garfield the cat’s love of lasagna, that’s me. Ever since I was a kid. And spinach lasagna is my favorite. A few weeks ago I finally tried my hand at my own recipe for lasagna. You know what? It was easy! I always felt like a lot of recipes for lasagna were overly complicated and I remember it always being an involved process for my mom. Well, this recipe takes just 20 minutes of prep work, can be made ahead and baked when you need it. Frozen and baked later. Or baked, frozen, and heated up later.

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Plus, I took all the things I like from my favorite lasagna recipes and mashed them together. Cottage cheese instead of ricotta. Ground beef cooked into sautéed onions. Homemade sauce that doesn’t take forever to cook. And thick enough where when you heat it up after frozen, it doesn’t turn into watery soup. Chopped spinach mixed in with the cheese mixture instead of the meat sauce. Oh and olives. I love black olives in my lasagna!

Spinach Lasagna Yum Yum!

Meat Sauce
1 diced onion (those little food processors work well)
2 cloves diced garlic
1 lb ground beef (90% lean)
1 can tomato sauce (16 oz)
1 can diced tomatoes (16 oz – drained)
2 T flour
1 t dried crushed thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cheese Mixture
1 pk 8 oz chopped frozen spinach – thawed, drained, and excess moisture removed
6 oz shredded mozzarella
2 cups small curd cottage cheese

1 can sliced black olives

Lasagna Assembly
2 oz shredded mozzarella
9 cooked lasagna noodles (or the ready to bake kind)

9″x13″x3″ cake pan or baking pan

Tips
:: If you are cooking your lasagna noodles, fill a pot with water and bring to a boil while you are cutting your veggies.

:: If you are going to bake right away, preheat your oven to 350F when you start cooking.

:: You can easily replace the ground beef with textured vegetable protein (just add in the tomato sauce, then the tvp) or ground turkey (use as beef) if you are minding the red meat.

Directions:
If you have frozen spinach, start thawing in the microwave.

Meat Sauce: Dice onions and garlic. Heat up 1 T olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot, stir in onions and garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add ground beef and break up with a fork, continually stirring and breaking apart until all the way cooked — about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, add noodles to the boiling water and turn down to a simmer. Add 1 T oil and a dash of salt. When cooked, drain and place noodles in layers with wet towels. This will help them to stay moist and cool until you are ready to put the lasagna together.

Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes to meat mixture, bring sauce to a boil. Sprinkle in flour 1/2 T at a time until you have added 2 T, stirring constantly so clumps don’t form. Stir in thyme, salt, and pepper. Turn to low and let simmer until you are ready to assemble.

Cheese mixture: In a large bowl combine, all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Make sure you have removed all excess moisture from spinach before adding to the cheese mixture. I press the spinach between two plates.

Assembling the Lasagna: Place 3 noodles in the bottom of the pan, spoon in meat sauce, then some cheese mixture. Repeat 2 more times (3 layers built up). Cover with remaining cheese. Place in a preheated oven and bake at 350F for 45 minutes — until sauce starts to boil and the cheese on the top is nice and brown.

If freezing before cooking: line the pan with plastic wrap before assembling. Assemble as directed above, then place the whole thing in the freezer. Once frozen all the way through, remove from the freezer, pop the lasagna out of the pan, wrap the whole thing with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, then another layer of plastic wrap. Label with the name, date, and cooking directions (trust me you will so forget by the time you pull it out of the freezer to cook). Then you can use the same pan to bake it in, but you also don’t sacrifice your baking dish to the freezer until you cook it.

If freezing after cooking: Let cool, you can place in the fridge to speed this up and keep bacteria from forming. Slice into 1 person portion sizes. Wrap each portion in a layer of plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and then plastic wrap. Label with the name, date, and cooking directions (reheat in the microwave on defrost for 3 minutes and high for 2)

We usually do the second method because we dig right into it. You can also assemble it and keep in the frig for 2 days. Then just bake it when you need it the next day or so. This is especially great if you are crunched for time around dinner time the next day. I don’t know how people do it who get off work at 5pm, then have dinner ready by 6pm for their family. If that is you, you rock.

So yesterday I changed things up and I made up two! I only have one pan so the way I worked it was I assembled and cooked the first one. We had dinner, let it cool, portioned it out and froze it. Then I did it again, but tossed it in the frig to cool it right away, portioned, and wrapped it for the freezer. We have a small freezer, so having little cubes of lasagna that can be tucked everywhere is a lot easier than a whole lasagna. Plus being that it’s just the two of us, we don’t need to pull out a whole lasagna and cook it for dinner. We can just grab 2-3 slices and we are good. You can round it out really easily with garlic bread and a salad or just some toast and a salad.

Oh and how much did this whole mess for 2 lasagnas cost? Just $4.50 per lasagna! Not bad considering we get about 6 meals from each one or 12 servings depending on how you look at it.

Alright, I’m hungry. Totally time for some lasagna — I am writing this around lunch, just so you know, it’s not 7:30 in the morning and I’m chowing on lasagna, but that wouldn’t be so bad if I did would it? Yum yum yum.

Kristin