8 & $20: Chicken and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Whether you're staying in or having a party, this twist on baked pasta fits the bill; just add an Italian red
8 & $20: Chicken and Spinach Lasagna Rolls
Making individual rolls instead of a big pan of lasagna presents an elegant alternative for serving. (Greg Hudson)
Feb 28, 2017

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

Who doesn’t love lasagna? Comforting and guaranteed to please, it's suitable for pretty much any time of year, and works equally well for a night in as it does for company. You can make it ahead of time and just pop it in the oven when it’s needed. And if you have leftovers, it's almost always better the second day.

Transforming a big pan of lasagna into individual rolls, as I’ve done here, makes it easier to serve in elegant portions and helps ensure you don’t overindulge. (Two rolls make for a respectably hearty portion; one is ideal for a lighter meal.) This recipe makes roughly 12 rolls, but I’d recommend throwing in a couple extra noodles to boil just in case any stick together and rip. Also you'll have them on hand if you happen to have extra filling for one more roll.

I wanted this lasagna version to be on the lighter side, so I opted for a chicken and spinach filling rather than beef. To keep things simple, I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken and shredded the meat. Any extras can be put to use in another meal. By the same token, if you already have leftover chicken you’ve made at home, use it here.

In lieu of a traditional tomato sauce, I made my own quickie weeknight version by adding extra seasoning to a can of diced tomatoes. Something about the light yet chunky texture reminds me that warmer days are ahead. Feel free to use your favorite tomato sauce instead.

Again, aiming at a slightly lighter version, I scaled back my use of cheese, particularly the amount distributed over the top. You can certainly add more to your heart’s desire. I opted for the nutty flavor of Parmesan, but you can use Romano, mozzarella (which will give you a gooey, melty texture) or any combination you like.

The flavors and weight of this dish straddle the line when it comes to wine pairings. For warmer days, I’m certain that a medium- to full-bodied white would make a lovely match. I’m still craving red wines, however, and decided to try out a couple of different Italian options: a Sangiovese from the region of Molise and a Nero d’Avola from Sicily.

We ended up with two really good matches. The Sangiovese was medium-bodied, with juicy black cherry flavors. Easy-drinking, it had lots of spice notes that are sure to make it a crowd-pleaser. The Nero d’Avola was likewise medium-bodied, with a bright, juicy quality, as well as plum notes and hints of smoke. When we tried this with the lasagna rolls, the combination accentuated the spice and herb elements in both the food and the wine, adding an extra layer of depth beyond what we found with the Sangiovese.

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Pair with an Italian red such as Feudo Maccari Nero d'Avola Terre Siciliane Noto 2014 (89 points, $16) or Di Majo Norante Sangiovese Terre degli Osci 2015 (87 points, $12)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 55 to 60 minutes
Active cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 65 to 70 minutes
Approximate food cost: $22

  • 12 or more lasagna noodles
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 jumbo onion, diced (about 3 cups chopped)
  • 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (for extra flavor, choose one with added garlic)
  • Italian seasoning blend
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 10 ounces fresh baby spinach (if you substitute thawed frozen spinach, squeeze out excess water)
  • 3 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan (or substitute mozzarella, Romano or a combination)

1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil and preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water and cook for 12–14 minutes, or according to package instructions, stirring occasionally. Remove the noodles from the water. Run under cool water to stop cooking, and drain.

3. While the noodles are cooking, sweat the diced onions with a little cooking oil and a pinch of salt in a large sauté pan until tender—approximately 10 minutes. Transfer about one-third of the cooked onions to a saucepot. Add the diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer, then reduce to low. Season with approximately 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

4. Meanwhile, add the garlic and spinach to the onions remaining in the sauté pan and cook over medium heat until the spinach has wilted. Transfer the mixture to a strainer and gently press out any excess moisture. Combine the spinach mixture with the shredded chicken and ricotta, and stir. Season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then stir in the beaten egg and combine well.

5. Lightly grease a large lasagna baking pan (or prepare multiple individual serving pans, as in the photo), then spoon a small amount of the tomato mixture on the bottom of the pan(s).

6. Spread 1/4–1/3 cup of the chicken-spinach-ricotta mixture in a thin layer over each lasagna noodle, then carefully roll them up. Line up the lasagna rolls in the baking pan seam-side down. (Or distribute 2 per pan, if using individual serving pans.) Pour the remaining tomato mixture on top. Distribute the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top, then place the pan(s) in the oven and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until completely heated through. Serve hot. Makes approximately 6 two-roll servings.

Cooking Pairings Red Wines Italy Sangiovese Recipes

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