Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lasagne Roll-ups with Smoked Chicken and Spinach

Like all pastas, lasagne provides opportunity to be creative, which is always an invitation to incorporate things that need to be used up, either because you bought too much or you have a little bit left from a previous meal. Pasta, like rice, does not have a distinctive flavour or texture, allowing other foods to be showcased.

A layered lasagne requires more filling ingredients and work than lasagne roll-ups do, in my opinion. So on a day like today, when I had a little bit of spinach, a small amount of grated mozzarella in the freezer, half a red pepper and a handful of grape tomatoes, that is exactly what came to mind.

Clockwise from left: spinach, mozzarella, red pepper and grape tomatoes

I added a smoked chicken breast from the freezer, some ricotta and goat cheese to bind the filling, onion, garlic and fresh basil, and of course, lasagne noodles.

First assemble the filling:

Heat a pan and add the spinach with a small amount of water, turning constantly to avoid scorching. This will wilt the spinach.

Place in a strainer and allow to cool and drain. When it is completely cool, squeeze as much excess liquid out as you can, then roughly chop the spinach.

                                                                                                                        In the same pan, over medium high heat, place the tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes  start to colour and split. Cool, roughly chop and add them to the spinach.

Dice the smoked chicken breast, and set aside. If you do not have access to a smoker, or cannot find smoked chicken breast  at your grocery store, plain chicken breast works just as well.
Finely dice 1/4 cup of onion and in the same pan as the tomatoes, gently cook them with olive oil until they soften. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the chicken breast. If you are using smoked chicken it is partially cooked, so it will cook for less time than an uncooked regular chicken breast.                              

Add the chicken mixture to the bowl with the spinach and tomatoes. Roughly chop 1/4 cup of fresh basil and add that as well, along with 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup of soft goat cheese. Mix it well to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cook 12 lasagne noodles until slightly undercooked, drain and run under cold water to stop them cooking, and to make them easier to work with!

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce (I used 2 cups of my Basic Tomato Sauce, see recipe on the side bar) on the bottom of a 9" X 13" ovenproof dish.

 Lay your prepared noodles out on the counter and divide the filling between them, spreading it to leave about 1/2" clear at each short end. This stops the filling from squishing out when it gets rolled up.

Roll each noodle up and place seam side
down on the tomato sauce in the dish.

Spread the rest of the tomato sauce over the top iof the rolled noodles and top with the grated mozzarella.

Bake at 350F until heated through and bubbling, and the cheese is golden.

Serve hot and enjoy!!!

Other filling ideas for lasagne roll ups:

  • Cut a butternut squash in half and place in an oven proof dish, add 1" of water, some sprigs of thyme and 2 cloves of garlic and roast until tender. Cool and scrape out of the skin and mash. Season with salt and pepper, chopped fresh thyme and/or sage and spread onto the noodles.
  • Cook sliced mushrooms with butter, minced shallots and garlic. Add whipping cream to cover the bottom of the pan and allow it to reduce until starting to thicken. Add chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper, fresh goat cheese and spread onto the noodles.
  • Thinly slice zucchini lengthwise, season with salt and pepper and rub lightly with olive oil before grilling. Lay a piece of zucchini on each noodles and spread with a herbed soft cheese such as Boursin, before rolling it up.
  • Canned pumpkin, season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg and combined with caramelized onions.
  • Ricotta cheese, grated parmesan, chopped cooked spinach, roasted garlic, fresh basil and chopped olives.
  • Crumbled cooked sausage, cooked onion and garlic, ricotta cheese and fresh herbs such as basil or rosemary

Sauces can be mixed and matched with the fillings you choose. Try some of these ideas:

  • Basic tomato sauce, chili flakes, fresh herbs
  • Cream sauce with pesto (basil or sundried tomato pesto)
  • Meat sauce
  • Cream sauce with blue cheese and fresh chives
  • Roasted red pepper puree, alone or combined with tomato or cream sauce

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