Spinach Lasagna with Walnut Pesto

As the weather gets warmer, lighten up dinner with a pasta dish made with a light and healthy sauce.

Spinach Lasagna with Walnut Pesto

As the weather gets warmer, lighten up dinner with a pasta dish made with a light and healthy sauce.

Recipe Courtesy of Mollie Katzen

Spinach Lasagna with Walnut Pesto

This easy version of lasagna uses the rich taste of spinach and pesto instead of a heavy Bolognese sauce. Make this tonight for a lighter, healthier meal, just in time for Spring.

Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients for Spinach Lasagna:

A little olive oil for the pan

2 pounds fresh spinach, washed (or 2 10-ounce packages fresh baby spinach leaves, or 2 10-ounce packages frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted)

2 pounds non-fat ricotta cheese or non-fat cottage cheese

1 cup Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup minced walnuts, lightly toasted

1 24-ounce jar of low-sugar tomato sauce (or about 2 3/4 cups of your favorite sauce)

16 fresh, uncooked green (spinach) lasagna noodles or, if using dried, 16 no-boil noodles 

1/2 pound low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated

Ingredients for Walnut Pesto (makes one cup):

3 packed cups fresh basil leaves

3 large cloves garlic

1/3 cup lightly toasted walnuts

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

additional extra virgin olive oil (for storage), optional


1. For lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Lightly oil a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. If using fresh spinach, chop it fine. If using frozen, chopped spinach, make sure it is thoroughly defrosted and squeeze out all the excess water. 

2. Place the ricotta or cottage cheese in a large bowl. Stir in the spinach, pesto, garlic, salt, pepper, half the parmesan, and the walnuts. Mix well.

3. Spread half the tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking pan.  Place a layer of uncooked noodles over the sauce. Spoon about 1/3 of the ricotta or cottage filling in dabs over the noodles (you can spread it a little, but not too much) and sprinkle with 1/3 of the grated mozzarella. Follow with another layer of sauce, then noodles, followed by another 1/3 of the filling, and another 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat one more time, and then finish up with a final layer of noodles. You will have some parmesan left over. 

4. If you are using fresh noodles, bake uncovered. If you are using dried noodles, cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake for 50 minutes, uncovering the pan (if applicable) during the last 15 minutes, during which time you can sprinkle on the reserved parmesan. (In the case of the uncovered pan, if the top of the lasagna becomes as brown as you like it before the full baking time is up, cover loosely with foil and continue baking, so it won’t get too dark.)  Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

5. For pesto: Place the basil leaves and garlic in a food processor or blender, and mix well. Add the walnuts, and continue to blend until the nuts are finely ground.

6. Keep the machine running as you drizzle in the olive oil. When you have a smooth paste, transfer to a bowl, and stir in the parmesan.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Tip: If you are not going to use the pesto right away, place in a container that has a tight-fitting lid. Smooth out the top surface of the pesto, and pour on enough olive oil to cover it completely. This creates an air-proof seal that helps preserve it well. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.

This recipe was created on behalf of the Smart Menu© campaign, which aims to change the way America eats while providing individuals with the knowledge to make smart food choices.

Love walnuts? Try this Jarlsberg Apple Walnut Figgy Salad, or something else from our Recipe File.

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