July 14, 2014

Take a break from traditional lasagna and try lasagna roll-ups instead. They are fun to make, simple to prepare and you won't be stuck with a whole pan of lasagna.

Our neighbors on the corner recently welcomed their second child, a baby girl named Francis. I remember the days of "baby fog" after the birth of our sons and feeling so exhausted some nights I had no idea what to make for dinner. If someone offered to bring us dinner, I always said yes.

Lasagna roll-ups are easier than lasagna, but just as delicious. They can be heated up in the oven or frozen for later use. Add a simple salad to this fun-to-eat meal, and dinner is complete.

Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups

This dinner by Mmm Café will be a winner at your house if your family is a fan of Alfredo sauce. My son, Kellan, 6, loves what he calls "white sauce" on his pasta. My husband, Danny, often orders Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken at restaurants so I knew this meal would hit the spot. I was right. I used breast meat from a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store to save time. My family was hungry for dinner when I walked in the door.

The roll-ups were simple to assemble, but make sure the chicken is finely shredded. You can shred it with your hands, but I sliced it very thin with a sharp knife. For me, 2 roll ups was the right amount, but if you have an extra-hungry family, plan on three per person.

9 lasagna noodles (traditional, not no-cook noodles)

2 1/2 cups jarred or homemade Alfredo sauce (homemade recipe below)

2 cups cooked, finely shredded chicken


garlic salt (optional)

3 cups shredded mozzarella, Italian blend or cheese of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 pan with non-stick spray and pour 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce, or just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Boil 8-10 cups water in a large pot, cook lasagna noodles until al dente. Stir noodles carefully. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water to prevent them from sticking to each other. Then, lay out each noodle individually and blot dry with a paper towel. Spread about 2 tablespoons Alfredo sauce over each noodle. If there is too much sauce the noodles will be too messy to roll. Sprinkle oregano and garlic salt on top of sauce. Take 1/9 of the shredded chicken and spread it out evenly over each noodle. Sprinkle approximately 2 tablespoons of cheese on each noodle. To roll up, start at one end and roll the noodle over the toppings. You will need to lift the noodle a little to prevent squishing out the inside ingredients while rolling.

Place the roll-ups in the pan, one by one, seam-side down so they don't come undone. Once they are all in the pan, pour the remaining Alfredo sauce over the top. Top with remaining cheese. Bake roll ups for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted on top.

Serves 3

The Best Garlic Alfredo Sauce

1/2 cup butter

2 oz cream cheese (light cream cheese may not blend as smoothly)

2 cups heavy cream (or substitute half and half)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon fresh minced garlic

salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon dried oregano

2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

In a medium to large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add fresh minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth and melted. Whisk in the heavy cream. Season sauce with garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and whisk frequently until sauce thickens, around 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese and when melted, remove from heat and serve.

Caprese Lasagna Roll-Ups

A friend of mine posted this recipe on Facebook. Caprese salad consisting of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil is a perfect summer salad. To turn it into a main dish, add some creamy ricotta cheese and roll it all up into lasagna noodles.

8 lasagna noodles, uncooked

14 oz freshly shredded, low-moisture part skim mozzarella cheese, divided

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 large egg white

1/3 cup freshly, finely shredded parmesan cheese (about 1 1/4 oz)

freshly ground black pepper

3-4 medium Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced (about 1/6 inch thick slices)

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

1 cup marinara sauce, recipe follows

Simple Marinara Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic finely minced

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions listed on package to al dente. Drain pasta (do not rinse with water) and align lasagna noodles in a single layer on a large sheet of parchment or wax paper.

For filling, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese and egg white until well blended. Stir in parmesan cheese. Mix in 12 oz of the mozzarella cheese and season with black pepper to taste (I wouldn't recommend seasoning with salt just because the cheeses already have plenty of salt).

Place 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture over each lasagna noodle and spread into an even layer, going from one end of the lasagna to the other. Align 4 thin tomato slices over cheese mixture then sprinkle fresh basil over top. Snugly roll lasagna noodles to opposite end. Spread about 1/4 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of an 11x7 inch baking dish. Align lasagna roll-ups, seam side down in dish. Top each roll up with about 2 tablespoons of the pasta sauce (covering edges of pasta so they don't dry out while baking). Sprinkle top with remaining 2 oz shredded Mozzarella. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, plate pasta and garnish with plenty of basil ribbons. Serve warm.

Simple Marinara Sauce

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions to hot oil and sauté about 3 minutes until soft, adding garlic during last minute of sautéing. Pour in crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture just to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and allow sauce to cook for about 25-30 minutes (which will allow some of the water in crushed tomatoes to evaporate) while you prepare pasta and lasagna filling (you can freeze or refrigerate left over sauce in a small airtight container for later use, adding fresh basil if desired).

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

If you're on a budget, Budget Bytes has the recipe for you. These roll-ups are filled with three kinds of cheese and spinach and then baked in a red sauce. You won't have to sacrifice taste one bit.

1 lb lasagna noodles

15 oz ricotta

1 cup shredded mozzarella

¼ cup grated parmesan

1 large egg

10 oz frozen spinach

2 1/2 cups marinara sauce

salt and pepper

non-stick spray

Fill a large pot with water and add a dash of salt. When it comes to a full boil, add the lasagna noodles and cook until al dente (soft but not soggy, about 12-15 minutes). When they are finished cooking, drain noodles in a colander.

While the noodles are boiling, prepare the filling. Thaw the package of frozen spinach in the microwave and then squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible. Combine the spinach in a bowl with the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg, freshly grated pepper and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Mix until well-combined.

When the noodles and filling are ready to go, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a glass casserole dish by spraying with non-stick spray.

On a clean surface, lay out a few noodles at a time. Place a few tablespoons of filling on each noodle and spread to cover from edge to edge. The filling does not need to be thick because once the noodle is rolled up, it will be compounded. Make sure to spread it all the way to the edges of the noodles.

Roll the noodles up and place in the prepared casserole dish. Repeat until all of your filling is gone (there may be some noodles left over, these are "back-ups" in case any of the others rip during assembly). Pour the marinara sauce over the rolled noodles making sure to cover all surfaces. The sauce will keep the noodles hydrated and soft while baking.

Cover the dish in foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot or divide into individual portions and refrigerate.

Sausage Lasagna Rolls

Taste of Home has a way to satisfy your meat loving crowd. This recipe makes enough to fill two casserole dishes so you will have one to eat and one to freeze or bring to a friend.

12 lasagna noodles

1 lb mild ground Italian sausage

2 jars (26 oz each) spaghetti sauce

1 carton (15 oz) ricotta cheese

2 cups (8 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

1 egg

2 tablespoons minced

fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

2 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons minced

fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon grated

lemon peel

1 teaspoon coarsely

ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, egg, parsley, rosemary, lemon juice, thyme, lemon peel, pepper and salt. Drain noodles. Spread 2 tablespoons cheese mixture on each noodle; carefully roll up. Spread 2/3 cup meat sauce into each of two greased 11x7-in. baking dishes. Place roll-ups seam side down over sauce. Top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cover and bake 45-50 minutes or until bubbly.

Yield: 2 casseroles (6 servings each)