What's better than lasagna? Lasagna rolled up and filled with extra stuff, that's what. Lasagna roll-ups.
Typical recipes make me bored. So I asked myself, why make a boring lasagna casserole when you can roll those bad boys up and stuff them with a filling so hearty that the dish goes a longer way? I like to go against the grain and experiment, so rather than simply rolling them up with the typical ricotta mixture, I ventured to add some greens and meat to make it a truly well-rounded comfort meal.
The thing about cheesy pasta dishes is that it is really easy to stray away from the measurements listed and just dump in the amount that looks right. I am so guilty of being like, ‘you know what? I am feeling really cheesy today,' *dumps in more mozzarella*… eyeballing until the texture works for my mood, rather than measuring. Necessary? Not always. But hey, nobody's perfect.
My suggestion would be to at least start with the measurements listed for the filling and only add after you've got everything mixed together. The spinach and chicken take up a lot of extra space and you may find yourself wanting more ricotta or egg to make it have more of that pasty texture. It's OK to add a small amount if it looks a bit dry, just don't forget that the shredded Parmesan and mozzarella will melt during the bake so you may not need as much extra moisture as you think.
The lasagna roll-up process is really quite easy if your mixture has the right consistency and your noodles are drained and dried. If you try to stuff and roll before letting the noodles dry, the mixture won't stick very well and the rolls will slide around rather than staying in their tubular form.
To ensure ultimate stickiness, boil your noodles before creating your mixture so that if you're rushed for time, they are able to rid themselves of excess water. I found that laying them on a piece of wax or parchment paper with a light spray of cooking oil works well. If you don't have either, a baking sheet works too.
Before rolling your noodles, put a thin layer of your sauce of choice on the bottom of your baking dish. This will help keep the rolls from cooking onto the dish (messy clean up later). I made two sauces this time (like I said, I don't like boring and I have a hard time making up my mind when it comes to food), a marinara and an Alfredo. Marinara, of course, goes well with this meal as it is the standard sauce used for lasagna. But I have to be honest that the Alfredo was the real winner this time around. It blended really well with the chicken and spinach. Jarred sauce is fine but I highly recommend making your own if you've got the time. Recipes to come later!
When you're ready to roll, put 2-3 spoonfuls of the stuffing on a noodle and use your fingers to spread it out evenly. Try to avoid having too many large chunks of chicken in the same area or the roll-up won't be even. Also, be careful not to tug too hard on the noodles as you spread the mixture as you don't want any tears.
Place each roll seam-side down to keep it sealed. Be sure to leave the slightest bit of wiggle room between each roll-up as they will expand a little more during the bake as the noodles warm and absorb some of the liquid from the sauce. Fortunately, the pasta and the chicken has already been cooked so the roll-up will be pretty true to its final size. However, you can expect them to saddle up on one another with the addition of the sauce as the noodle will absorb some of the moisture.
After you've filled your baking dish, top each roll with 1-2 spoonfuls of sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan. It isn't necessary to fully submerge the roll in sauce like you would in a lasagna casserole. Keep some extra sauce to use after the bake if you feel you may want more.
Because of the chicken and spinach addition, you almost don't even need to eat this with anything but, perhaps, a nice piece of bread to soak up extra sauce!
Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups
1 1/2 cup ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarella (low moisture, if available)
1/2 cup fresh shredded parmesan
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 1/2 cup chicken, shredded*
1 box lasagna noodles
1 egg, whisked
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
Sauce of choice
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Boil the lasagna noodles in salted water as per the instructions on the box. Usually about 8 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.
- Lightly prepare a piece of wax or parchment paper, or a baking sheet, with cooking spray. Lay each noodle on the sheet to dry.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute garlic until fragrant.
- Mix ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic, egg, salt, pepper and spinach (thawed and drained) in a large mixing bowl. Add shredded chicken* and mix well.
- Put a thin layer of your sauce of choice on the bottom of your baking dish.
- Spread 2-3 spoonfuls of the cheese mixture onto each lasagna noodle. Spread the mixture evenly using your fingers, leaving a small amount of empty space on the end for overflow.
- Place each lasagna roll-up seam-side down in your baking dish.
- Top each roll with 1-2 spoonfuls of sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella and Parmesan.
- Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove lid or tin foil and bake uncovered for another 10.
*I find that the most efficient way to cook and shred chicken is by poaching until cooked through and shredding with two forks. A rotisserie chicken would be fine if you are short on time.