I’ve been thinking a lot about my university days lately. I didn’t cook much in those days, just on Saturday and Sunday, when “Arlosh Hall” was closed. The food in our hall was pretty good as far as college food was concerned. Though I can’t enjoy potatoes quite the same way any more. I think if I had eaten any more potatoes at college I would have turned into a potato myself. Anyway, the other day, I was thinking about the good foods I enjoyed during university. And some of the best food I had during my university days was the food that my ex-boyfriend’s mom would make us when we visited her in Germany between terms. In particular, I remember her spinach pasta bake. Ben’s mom would often make this for us when she wanted us to have something to eat, but knew would be missing for an evening. All we had to do was turn on the oven to cook it and it was perfection. I have since tried to re-create this recipe many times since then, but it has never tasted exactly the same. The good news is that I figured out many things during my testing process. Spinach lasagne can easily be bland if you don’t have the right balance of ingredients. I don’t mind that I learned this the hard way so much. Because what I have learned along the way is that the trick to a good spinach lasagne recipe is having a good balance of acidity, sweetness and saltiness. And requite recently, I have finally made a spinach lasagne I love and now I want to share that with you (and my friend Sylvia who requested a spinach lasagne recipe over 1 year ago!) It’s different from my ex-boyfriend’s mom’s version, but that’s OK. To be honest, I don’t think I would want to try and re-create the exact same recipe – some things just have their special place. The recipe is a great way to use the spinach and leeks still in season in Cyprus at the moment while spring still is around. And a fantastic dish to make during these “cross-over” weeks, where it’s not quite summer but not really spring anymore either. This is a properly layered thick lasagne; still hearty but not overly heavy. In this recipe, the acidity comes from the tomatoes, the sweetness from a little brown sugar in the tomato sauce and borderline sweetness of the ricotta, and the saltiness comes from the parmesan and mozzarella. I hope you enjoy.
for the lasagne and filling
1 pack Mitsides Egg Lasagne
1 large bunch spinach (about 250 grams) chopped (ensuring the thick stems are cut away)
5 chopped button mushrooms (halved)
3 finely chopped small garlic cloves
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped leek
250 grams ricotta cheese
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
chopped spring onion as garnish
for the tomato sauce
2 cans Mitsides Chopped Tomatoes
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 chopped onion
1 tsp (heaped) brown sugar
for the cheese layers in the lasagne
1 to 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 to 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1. In a medium-hot frying pan, stir fry the garlic, onion and leek until translucent. Add the spinach, mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Once the spinach has wilted, place the spinach mixture in a colander in order to drain the liquid. Let rest and drain for about 10-15 minutes.
2. Prepare the tomato sauce. In a small saucepan, saute the garlic and onion. Once translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and brown sugar. Cook on low-medium heat for about 20 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan and egg. Add the spinach mixture and mix well with a fork.
4. In a shallow lasagne pan pour a generous amount of the tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of lasagne. And spoon more tomato sauce on top of the lasagne covering it. (Spooning sauce on top of the lasagne ensures that it will cook in the oven.) Spoon half of the spinach mixture on top. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top of the spinach mixture, covering it well. Then add a layer of lasagne, and more tomato sauce. Then add the rest of the spinach mixture covering it well with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Then pour a little more tomato sauce on top of this. Then add a final layer of lasagne, top with more tomato sauce and garnish with a little more mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
5. In a preheated oven bake at 175C for about 50 minutes to 1 hour until the lasagne is well cooked.