Spinach and Ricotta Bake

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Spinach and Ricotta Bake

This dish is very satisfying and full of flavour. I had leftover chicken breasts that I wanted to use up. The dish started off going to be spinach and ricotta gnocchi but I kept changing as I went. I had an open box of Divella lasagna sheets that needed to get used up and I had a litre of milk that was about to pass its sell by date. Now that I was going to make a bechamel sauce, I might as well make a tomato sauce too and so voila we have a lasagna type baked pasta dish. The chicken is optional, so vegetarians can leave this out. Oh, and the addition of the aubergines was a good move too. I got them on special at Woolies when they ask you to buy 2 for the discounted price of ???. I do like a good offer, what with me being Scottish and all. Anyway, the dish was a success. There are plenty of cheats you can use by buying ready made sauces, but honestly I am always a bit weary about what goes into those processed sauces. When I make sauces I usually make big batches and then freeze, but by the time you defrost the sauce you could have had the dish in the oven already. If you want to make this dish, plan ahead and be organised then it goes really quickly.

If you feel like another baked dish, you should give my Robert Carrier’s Moussaka a try. It appears I always have milk in the fridge that neither of us drink. You must be wondering why on earth I keep buying it then? Well on the occasion someone visits for coffee, of course. The very strange thing is every time someone does pop in I never have milk and then when someone doesn’t pop in I always have milk. Nongi, loves getting it when it’s on the turn. She makes mass out of it to pour over mielie meal.

Spinach and Ricotta

Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 box Divella oven ready lasagne 18 sheets 
  • Salt and pepper          Salt pepper     Salt pepper  check seasoning for every part of the dish
  • Olive oil enough to drizzle 6-8 Tbls
  • 4 Aubergines sliced into 1,5cm rounds
  • 600g spinach washed, stalks removed, steamed and squeezed I like swiss chard
  • 250g portobello mushrooms
  • 4 cloves grated garlic
  • 250g ricotta  use feta if you can't find ricotta
  • 50g grated grana padano or Parmesan
  • 4 Sprigs of fresh origanum
  • 4 Sprigs of Basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped spring onion stems
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts chopped optional
  • 1 tin Woolworths chopped tomatoes 
  • 2Tbls tomato paste
  • 1 Tbls dried origanum
  • Pinch of sugar optional – used to cut acidity in tomatoes and enhance their flavour
  • 1 L full cream milk
  • 100g butter
  • 100g flour 
  • 1 egg
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Extra grated Parmesan or grana padano 

Instructions

Oven on to 220°C then turn down to 180º C to bake

  • Salt the aubergines and leave to drain in a colander for 30min 
  • Peel and slice mushrooms spread onto baking paper on a baking tray. Salt pepper drizzle olive oil bake for 15min stir half way though. Remove set aside until ready 
  • Spread aubergines in a single layer on same baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 min until golden brown. Set aside until ready to assemble. Turn oven down to 180°C 
    While aubergines are baking get onto spinach mix 
  • In a separate bowl add the chopped prepared spinach along with salt and pepper and about 10 grated scrapes of whole nutmeg. (Or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg) Add the ricotta and Parmesan. Mix together properly. Taste to ensure you have seasoned it correctly. Add the chopped origanum, basil and spring onion to the mix. Set aside until ready to assemble 
  • Now for the white bechamel sauce and tomato sauce 
  • In a small sauce pan add the tomato, tomato paste,salt, pepper, sugar and origanum. Gentle cook in the background while you get started on the bechamel sauce
  • In a sauce pan add the butter and place on medium heat to melt. Once melted, add the flour and stir to ensure no lumps form. I use a wooden spoon for this task. Cook for about 2 minutes to form a roux. Add the milk and now use a whisk to vigorously mix, again making sure the sauce is smooth and silky. Don’t go off and do something else. Anyone who is successful at making sauces will tell you to focus on only this task. The sauce will thicken. Taste it to ensure you can’t taste the raw flour. If you can detect a flour taste continue to cook. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.  In a separate jug whisk the egg. Now add 1 tbls of thickened sauce to the egg to temper the egg. Add another 2-3 Tbls one at a time to the egg mix ensuring it doesn’t turn into scrambled eggs by stirring all the while. This mix then gets poured back into the white sauce mix slowly while whisking continuously. Cook until the egg is cooked into the sauce like a custard. Grate whole nutmeg into sauce to taste. 
  • Gather all your prepared ingredients around the lasagna dish. 
  • Start with a thin coating of white sauce and a few tbls of tomato sauce on the base of the dish spreading as mixing to swirl the sauces together. Now lay 6 sheets in a single layer on top of that.  
  • Add more bechamel and tomato sauce again spread and swirl together over the 
    Spread a layer of aubergine 
    Sprinkle half the chicken 
    Spread half the spinach 
    Cover with 6 lasagne sheets 
  • Repeat the next layer the same as the previous ending with the bechamel on top. Sprinkle the cooked mushrooms pressing into the sauce. Finally grate over Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake at 180°C for 30 minutes 
  • Uncover bake for a further 30min 
  • Serve with salad and crispy bread 
  • Serves 8-10 people (My family 6-8 portions)
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: lasagna, ricotta, Spinach

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