I suppose you’re wondering what in the world is Summer Lasagna? Well, it’s lasagna I make in the summer. Naw! Just kidding.
Summer lasagna is my answer to lasagna all year-long. Just like soup, I like to eat lasagna in all seasons. So I decided to change it up a bit, use a bechamel sauce (fancy name for white sauce), add some spinach, ground chicken and of course all the regulars… mozzarella and parmesan. And if I have my fave Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese in the frig, that get’s tossed in too.
The Bennett Crew wasn’t so sure they were going to like Summer Lasagna because they really love my rich red sauced Lasagna Bolognese. Luckily I got three thumbs up from the crew and they asked me to make it again this week.
I’ve also made this yummy white sauced lasagna without ground meat and it’s just as delicious. I added in steamed asparagus, extra spinach and fresh chopped herbs. And course extra garlic and cheese just to create a little decadence.
1 lb ground chicken
1-2 tablespoons veggie oil
½ cup chopped shallots
4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
½ teaspoon dried oregano
5-6 ounces baby spinach
Salt and pepper
6-9 Dry lasagna noodles, cooked according to directions
Béchamel sauce (recipe below)
1 lb Ricotta cheese
¼ cup shredded or grated parmesan
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs or seasoning
2 -3 cups fresh mozzarella shredded or sliced
½ cup shredded or grated parmesan
½ cup shredded fontina, optional
1 8×8 or 8×11 baking dish
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
In a large skillet over medium high heat add the oil and the ground chicken. Cook until the chicken is almost done.
Add the shallots and mushrooms to the chicken mixture and let them cook for a 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic and sauté a minute longer.
Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the oregano. Then add the fresh spinach. Let the spinach wilt down a bit and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Take the mixture off the heat.
Prepare the béchamel and set aside.
In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, ¼ cup parmesan, egg, dried herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Ladle a little béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and then cover the sauce with lasagna noodles.
Spread more sauce over the noodles and then top with some of the meat mixture. Top the meat mixture with some of the ricotta, and then sprinkle with a bit of the mozzarella.
Repeat the layers 2 or 3 times depending on pan size. Be sure to reserve enough mozzarella to sprinkle on top and then sprinkle with parmesan and fontina (if using). This is definitely a recipe that can be layered however you like so feel free to be creative!
Place a sheet of foil over the baking pan and place in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and let the top of the cheese crisp to a golden brown. At the end of the 20 minutes, sometimes I turn on the broiler and toast the cheese quickly. Be sure to watch or it might burn. (I’ve done this!)
When the lasagna is done, remove from the oven and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. It’ll be easier to cut and serve. This lasagna is definitely delicious the day its prepared, but it’s also fabulous the next day.
Serve with a light Spinach and Raspberry salad and crusty Italian bread.
Mario Batali’s Bechamel (one of my favorites)
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.