Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe: White Lasagna with Chicken, Spinach and Bechamel Sauce

After a chef friend told me about her craving for white lasagna, it occurred to me that in my 20 something years of existence I had never once attempted to make a lasagna on my own. Oh sure, I had seen relatives master the art of baked ziti, lasagna and every variation of chicken or eggplant parmigiano at family functions. But I realized that it was time that I take on the challenge of preparing a lasagna on my own both to feed a friend's craving and to prove to myself that I was capable.

Below you'll find my recipe for White Lasagna with Chicken, Spinach and a Bechamel Sauce. Sure lasagna, and a lasagna with a bechamel sauce no less, requires some work in the kitchen. But the fat slabs of chicken, cheese and silky spinach sandwiched between fat noodles dripping with bechamel sauce is a pretty good reward for your labor. Feel free to play around with the recipe, and I haven't completely perfected the measurements. If you want a more loaded lasagna, add more chicken, ricotta and spinach--though beware not to overstuff your layers. If you like your lasagna to be oozing with sauce, add more bechamel. And let me know how yours turns out.

Now I also understand that this is a huge amount of lasagna. However, as pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac (the one who prompted me to throw together this recipe) said, "It just feels wrong to make a small lasagna." Share some with friends.
Sorry folks, this sad iPhone picture will have to suffice.
White Lasagna with Chicken, Spinach and Bechamel Sauce

- 3-4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3 bunches of spinaches, washed thoroughly and drained
- 5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 16 oz. containers of fresh ricotta
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 1 lb. box of lasagna noodles
- 6 cups of bechamel sauce (I double Mario Batali's recipe for bechamel)

1. In a pan, heat about a tablespoon of EVOO or enough to coat the pan. Add about half of the minced garlic to the pan along with the chicken breasts. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook thoroughly. After the chicken is done, slice it on the diagonal or shred it, depending on your preference for the lasagna. Set aside.
2. Thoroughly wash and dry the spinach and remove the tough stalks. In a pan with EVOO and the rest of the minced garlic, cook the spinach until it's lightly wilted. This should only take a few minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. In the same pan as the spinach was cooked in, sautee the finely diced yellow onion until it's translucent and smooth.
4. Make the bechamel sauce according to the Batali recipe or one of your choosing. Add the cooked onions to the bechamel when it's finished.
5. Cook the lasagna noodles in a pot of salted, boiling water according to box instructions (For example, some lasagna noodles instruct you to cook the pasta for half the time you would normally cook pasta so that it doesn't turn to mush when you bake the lasagna). Using tongs, remove and drain the lasagna noodles. Be careful not to pile them on top of one another if you aren't layering them right away--they'll stick together.
6. In the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish, spread a thick layer of bechamel sauce. Then place a layer of lasagna noodles, followed by ricotta, half of a cup of parmesan, chicken, spinach and more bechamel sauce. Repeat this layering two more times.
7. Cover the top of the lasagna with a thick layer of the remaining bechamel sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
8. In a 350 degree oven, bake the lasagna for 40-45 minutes or until bubbling. If the lasagna starts to brown too much on top while it's baking, cover it with foil.

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