Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chicken Italian Sausage, Mushroom, and Spinach Lasagna

The other day I had a craving for some warm, cheesy, meaty Italian 'comfort' food.  I considered calling my mom and asking her to make some lasagna for me... seriously I did, she makes the BEST lasagna.  But this craving presented an opportunity for me... to make my very first attempt at lasagna!  So instead of calling Mom and begging for some cheesy goodness, I went to the store to gather the ingredients I needed to make it myself.  Maybe my lasagna could be as good as hers?!  Doubtful, but the idea got me excited to get into the kitchen... and hungry!  At the grocery store I picked up a box of whole grain lasagna noodles and (like magic) found a recipe on the back... since I wasn't sure exactly what I ingredients I needed, I decided to use that recipe as my guide.  So with a easy-looking, basic lasagna recipe and a grocery store full of ingredients, I was well on my way...

And what I ended up with was much more than a basic lasagna....

Chicken Italian Sausage, Mushroom, and Spinach Lasagna
based on a recipe from Ronzoni
makes 1 - 13x9 pan

12 oz. chicken Italian sausage (links)
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz. fresh, sliced mushrooms
32 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (I used a mushroom onion pasta sauce)
1/2 cup water
1 3/4 cups (15 oz. container) part skim ricotta cheese
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 ground black pepper
1 pkg whole grain lasagna noodles, uncooked
handful fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 13x9 pan with non-stick spray.  Slice chicken sausage links in 1/2 inch slices.  Place thawed spinach in a paper towel and gently pat to remove excess water.  In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, brown the chicken sausage and mushrooms. 

Towards end of cooking process, add chopped spinach.  Stir until mixed well.  Add spaghetti sauce (reserving about 1 cup) and water; turn down heat to medium-low and simmer 8-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese (reserving about 1 cup), Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt and pepper. 

Cover bottom of the 13x9 pan with half of the reserved spaghetti sauce (about 1/2 cup).  Arrange 3-4 UNCOOKED pasta pieces lengthwise over sauce; cover with one-half of the simmered sausage mixture.  Spread one-half of the cheese filling over the sauce. 

Repeat with another layer of lasagna, sausage mixture and cheese filling.  Top with layer of lasagna and the remaining spaghetti sauce; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese (and more Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil, optional). 

Cover with foil.  Bake 45 minutes.  Remove foil; bake additional 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Makes 12 servings.

Well, it would take me forever to get through a huge pan of lasagna so I transferred some of the lasagna into a 9x9 pan (I had to transfer it in smaller pieces so it wouldn't fall apart). Then, I tightly wrapped that pan in foil and put it in the freezer.  Make Ahead Meal... yeay!!!!  Next time I have a craving for some warm, cheesy Italian 'comfort' food, all I will need to do is take the pan out of the freezer and pop it in the oven.

Ok, this lasagna turned out so delicious... I had to pat myself on the back.  First attempt at lasagna..... SUCCESS.  Mom would be proud. :)


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