I have decided to take on a new task these days. Instead of going with the old favorites of my family, or exotic meats, I am instead going to go through old recipe books that I have lying around. Many of them were passed down from my mother, who is still alive, but no longer uses these books (or never used them in the first place!)
Just looking around the site, I notice that one of our main taglines happens to be “Old Favorites Made Healthier”. Well, I am at least adhering to the “Old Favorites” part of that motto. The healthier part? We’ll see…
So the first recipe I have chosen for my new format and methodology is, of course, actually an old favorite of mine. Oddly, I found it while searching through said books, in this case a book of “Home Town Recipes” compiled by the Bicentennial Woman’s Club of Sumter…. in South Carolina. I figure we got this book sometime around 1982 or 1983, because I recognize one author for sure (she was our neighbor across the street) and possibly one other author by name only.
And, of course, that recipe that I am going to do is something that has been in our family for quite a bit longer than this book has been around. The nearest that I can surmise (and that my mother can guess) is that our neighbor across the street got the recipe from my mother, and shared it in this book for others.
I recited the recipe to my mother over the phone after I made it, and she said that it sounded pretty much exactly right except for one of the short-cuts that she typically did not normally used (I did in this case.)
So, the recipe. Here is a picture of it as it was printed in the book. What I love about this book is that it is absolutely littered with advertising, and there must be half a dozen ads in there for Stroh’s Light. Ah, the 80’s… back before it wasn’t kosher to put things like that into print.
Mary DeLong is the submitter of this recipe, and as I said she was our neighbor across the street. She passed away in the late 80’s due to a sudden onset of cancer. So I guess in a way I am also making this recipe in her honour. There is a second recipe in this book that was hand-written in one of the open spaces that I will make at some point.
So as the recipe states, you need to cook the noodles until soft and then place them in a cold water bath to keep them soft while prepping everything else (and to cool them down so that you can work with them a bit.) This is pretty standard for any lasagna, of course.
Next is to take the frozen spinach (thawed, though it does not state this… I just happen to also sort of know the recipe by heart), ricotta cheese, Parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix them together. I didn’t use Parmesan, because I happened to have a nice block of pepper jack cheese in the fridge that was begging to be used instead, and realistically you are going to get about the same result. You want a cheese that is going to melt.
What the recipe instructions do NOT mention is what to do with the egg! Since it made no mention of it, I omitted the egg from the mixing procedure and all other procedures, and thus had this lonely egg at the end, all abandoned. I confirmed with my mother afterwards that it should have gone into the bowl to be mixed in as well, but so be it. It still works out in the end.
The next step is to roll up the mixture in the noodles. I lay the noodles out on my cutting board and used a paper towel to pat off the water that was still adhering to them. This makes things a LOT easier to roll up. By laying out multiple noodles at once like this, you can put the stuffing on them first, clean your hands a bit, then roll them without getting any of the stuffing on the outside edges without having to clean your hands many many times. I know the recipe instructions say to use about 1/3 of a cup of the mixture on each noodle, but who has time to measure that sort of thing? Eye-ball it to look something like I have above, leaving room at each end of the noodle so that it can roll up properly. Ever rolled up a sleeping bag or very thick blanket and find that one edge rolls up longer than the other because of the difference in circumference? Same idea. (Yes, I use weird analogies sometimes.)
Put them into a nice container that is going to fit them properly. You really do want them well encased like I have them in this bit of crockery that I own. I suppose that a normal casserole dish would work fine as well, you just need something with high enough sides to completely surround the rolls stood on end like this.
You may notice that there are only seven rolls in the dish, when the recipe calls for eight. I could have probably stuffed an eighth roll into the dish, and I had enough stuffing for eight (it was a perfect amount for eight, as a matter of fact!) but I only had seven lasagna noodles in the box! I’ll figure out a use for the left-over stuffing, if I have to simply eat it straight (it is actually quite tasty, and because I didn’t use an egg it should be safe to eat uncooked!)
Pour the tomato sauce on top. My mother apparently makes her own sauce for this portion of the recipe, some sort of secret recipe that she will probably never hand down to me, but frankly a jar of spaghetti sauce works just fine. I used an entire jar, which was actually a bit much. Next time I would only use about 2/3 of a jar for this application. Make sure that some of the sauce gets down between the noodles and into the crevices.
Bake at 350F for half an hour as the recipe says, then pull it out and put the rest of the cheese on top of the dish. I did so and covered it again and let it rest for a couple of minutes, and the cheese melted quite nicely. Scooping out individual rolls can be a bit of a hassle, but I was able to do so with a serving spoon.
This is the first time I have made this dish in something like ten years, and I think I did a pretty decent job of it. It is pretty close to what I remember it to be as a kid.
Oh, and as I mentioned at the beginning about making this healthier? Well, for one thing it is pretty darned healthy in the first place. The only thing that isn’t so great in it is the cheese, and perhaps the pasta if you are trying to avoid carbs or gluten. However, I did remove the egg! Hey! Less cholesterol, right?
- 8 lasagna noodles
- 1 pkg. frozen spinach
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- salt & pepper
- 2 cups spaghetti sauce
- Cook noodles according to package directions. When done, keep in cool water until ready to use.
- Mix spinach, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, ricotta, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Spread about 1/3 cup of mixture along length of noodle. Roll up and stand on end in greased 7” or 8” round casserole.
- Pour spaghetti sauce over noodles.
- Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Remove and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.
Coupons powered by Coupons.com