We're rollin' now: Spring Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups
Oh, it seems I've been waiting so long. Finally, the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer and tiny patches of green grass are peeking out from the lawn. As spring treats us to its fresh fragrance and colors, my appetite starts winding down from its winter of warm comfort foods and begins to crave meals on the lighter side.
Spring Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups remind me of a creamy vegetable-filled manicotti dish that a friend served years ago. I took her recipe home with me. I remember the mess I made as I worked to fill cooked tubes of manicotti. The slippery tubes slid right through my fingers. Some ripped as I stuffed the filling into the pasta tubes. I loved the flavors of the finished dish, but after making the Italian dish once, I decided it tasted better when someone else prepared it.
These Roll-Ups are my new, more healthful version of that manicotti dish I enjoyed during a different eating-style stage of my life. And, by spreading the vegetable-laden ricotta filling over cooked lasagna noodles and rolling them up, all frustration is eliminated.
I've been making an effort to eat leafy greens every day, so I sautéed a whole bag of sweet and tender organic baby spinach to mix into the filling. Along with sweet red pepper and grated carrot, the vegetables in this dish offer a healthy dose of vitamins A and C. Light and delicate toasted pine nuts add delicious flavor and texture to the filling.
I choose to use whole wheat lasagna noodles for this dish. Whether you decide to use whole wheat or traditional noodles, be sure to remove the noodles from the boiling water when they are just a bit underdone. They will finish cooking in the oven. Lasagna noodles that are cooked too long may tear easily as you work with them.
A jar of pasta sauce is a convenient product to use in this recipe. I prefer the flavor of homemade tomato sauce. You can get my recipe on my blog at www.areavoices.com/sdoeden.
A creamy white sauce made of ricotta, cream and Marsala makes this dish something special. If you want to hold down the calories from fat in this dish, just leave out the Creamy Marsala Ricotta Sauce. But, believe me, it really kicks the dish up a notch.
Meatless Spring Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups are a satisfying meal served alone, but for those who must have meat, serve it with some Italian sausage on the side. For those who are moving toward a more meatless or plant-based diet, this dish is for you. These easy-to-make roll-ups will help everyone transition from heavy winter comfort food to spring and summer salad season.
Spring Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups are a little bit manicotti, a little bit lasagna, loads of vitamins and nutrients, bits of bright colors and oodles of great flavor. Start rolling.
Spring Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups
8 lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 (5- or 6-ounce) bag baby spinach
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 (15-ounce) containers ricotta cheese, divided
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (26-ounce) jar meatless pasta sauce
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup half-and-half or whipping cream
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat the inside of a 9- x 13-inch glass baking dish with olive oil.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, removing noodles from the water when they are still a bit underdone. Lay the noodles flat on a clean, dry kitchen towel.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until softened. Add garlic, carrots and red pepper to skillet and sauté until peppers and carrots are just beginning to soften. Add spinach leaves. Continue to cook and stir until spinach is wilted. Remove skillet from heat. Add pine nuts, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Spread 1/8 of ricotta-vegetable mixture on each of the cooked lasagna noodles. Roll them up. Spread 1 cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Place the 8 roll-ups on the sauce, seam side down.
In a bowl, prepare Creamy Marsala Ricotta sauce by mixing remaining 15-ounce carton of ricotta cheese with whipping cream and Marsala. Season with salt and pepper. Pour Creamy Marsala Ricotta Sauce over Lasagna Roll-Ups in baking dish. Spoon remaining pasta sauce over all. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. At this point, the dish of lasagna roll-ups can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Allow dish to sit out at room temperature for about an hour before baking. Allow for a longer baking time, from 30 to 45 minutes. If you are making and baking the roll-ups, place the dish, uncovered, in preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes, until heated through and bubbly. Makes 8 servings, 1 roll-up per serving.
Tips from the cook
--Pine nuts, also called pignoli, actually come from the inside of certain kinds of pine cones. They are often found in small jars at some grocery stores. Some natural food stores or co-ops carry pine nuts in bulk. Because of their high fat content, pine nuts turn rancid quickly. They should be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, frozen for up to 9 months. To toast pine nuts, place them in a small heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the ivory-colored pine nuts are golden brown, immediately transfer them to a plate so they stop browning and begin to cool. I like to keep toasted pine nuts on hand to toss into fresh green salads.
--Marsala is a sweet Italian wine often sipped with dessert.