When it comes to feeding a crowd, especially young athletes, nothing beats homemade lasagna. With the start of spring sports just around the corner, it’s good to have a hearty and nutritious recipe or two to feed active and hungry kids. Whether it’s middle school soccer, high school lacrosse or the myriad of other team sports, it’s not always your own athlete that you’re feeding; it’s the entire team. So, when it’s your turn to host a team dinner, this do-ahead sausage and spinach lasagna is perfect for the whole gang.
Lasagna from scratch is not the quickest recipe, but the care in making homemade tomato sauce is worth it. The secret is in the tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the rich soil of Italy then, conveniently canned. Costco in Union sells huge 106 oz. (almost 7 lbs.!) cans of Nina brand imported San Marzano tomatoes for only $3.99. Add a few choice ingredients like fresh garlic, olive oil, tomato paste and a bit of sugar to coax out their natural flavor and you’ll have enough sauce for 2 lasagnas. If your not cooking for a crowd, the sauce freezes beautifully for months. It’s a little more effort up front, but you’ll be glad to have this all-purpose tomato sauce whenever you need it.
Sausage and Spinach Lasagna
Prep time: 15 minutes (sauce), 15 minutes (lasagna)
Cooking time: 2 hours (sauce), 30 minutes (lasagna)
Sauce for a crowd:
¼ cup olive oil
1 bulb garlic, peeled and chopped
6 oz can tomato paste
106 oz can plum tomatoes (or 4, 28 oz. cans)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ ‘sauce for a crowd’ recipe
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage (or Italian chicken sausage)
1 cup (4 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1-pound ricotta cheese
1-pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 box lasagna noodles
- Sauce. In a large pot over medium heat, add oil. When warm add garlic and cook until soft. Do not burn garlic! Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate garlic. Add sugar, then tomatoes (with puree) and crush with the back of a spoon or your clean hands. Turn heat up and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Lasagna. Remove casing from sausage, break up into pieces and cook in a medium skillet over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain and set aside. Place lasagna noodles in a 9x 13 baking dish and cover with hot water. Soak for 10 minutes to soften. While noodles are softening, place thawed spinach in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much water as possible. Place in a medium bowl. Add ricotta, 2/3 of the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and mix well. Drain pasta noodles and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To assemble lasagna, use the same 9 x 13 baking dish and layer all the ingredients by starting with a thin layer of tomato sauce evenly spread on the bottom. Layer 1/3 of the noodles, then 1/2 of the ricotta spinach mixture and 1/2 of the sausage. Repeat this 1 more time finishing with the third layer of noodles, more sauce and the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.