THE DREAM:Your family, seated around the perfectly set, candle-lit dinner table, smiling expectantly at you with upturned, shiny faces as you carry a steaming, heaping dinner platter towards them, smiling back gratefully. You are not tired, cranky, frazzled, or overworked; you are the very picture of family harmony as you sit down to enjoy another of your fabulous dinner creations; one, of course, that EVERYONE loves.
THE REALITY:You have to call the family to dinner three times. Candles are a hazard, especially when your two boys arrive at the table swinging light sabers like baseball bats. You have prepared three different dinners; one with no vegetables for the kindergartener, one with extra meat for your husband, and one with less cheese for yourself. The two year old cries that he’s not hungry; then adds that he wants Honey Nut Cheerios. Nothing else will console him. The kindergartener hates spice and is certain that you have spiked the meal with copious amounts of oregano and thyme. He refuses to try a bite. Your husband shouts that no one is leaving this table until they have eaten Mom’s dinner, by God. Everyone starts crying, including you.
In my family, this recipe has remained a favorite. Even my tomato sauce-phobic son will eat it if I tell him it’s just pizza with pasta crust (and hide the veggies!) Best of all, it’s quick and easy, with minimal prep time and fairly inexpensive ingredients. And it can feed a family of four for at least 2 nights, making tomorrow night’s dinner as simple as turning on the oven!
NOTE: If your children are like mine, DO NOT refer to this meal as “lasagna . Try “pasta pizza or “cheesy noodles , or cut a serving into strips and call them “cheese trees or “noodle fingers . I NEVER imagined that I’d be a crust-cutter, but when you need your children to eat, you sink to unimaginable levels to achieve it!
HANNAH’S NO-BOIL SPINACH LASAGNA
- 1 package lasagna noodles
- 2 jars (16 oz.) tomato sauce
- 2 packages shredded cheese (I use a blend of mozzarella and cheddar)
- 2 containers part-skim ricotta cheese (or low fat cottage cheese), mixed in a bowl w/salt and pepper
- 1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- Oregano, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Coat the bottom of a 9×13 pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce.
- Place 3 noodles (uncooked) vertically and one horizontally (you may have to break it to fit the pan’s width) over the sauce.
- Top noodles with 1/3 ricotta mix, and a dash of oregano.
- Top ricotta layer with 1/3 spinach.
- Top spinach layer with 1/3 shredded cheese.
- Top cheese with 1/3 tomato sauce.
- Repeat layers, ending with the sauce (and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, if desired)
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.
While an easy, delicious lasagna dinner may not be the impetus for sudden family bliss, a warm, filling meal ‚ especially one that SEEMS like it took hours to prepare ‚ may provide at least a few minutes of quiet unity. If not, at least you’ll have some sustenance to get you through the bedtime chaos!