Cheesy and leafy fresh spinach lasagna is made with a hint of nutmeg. Layers of lasagna noodles are laid out with three different types of cheese and an exquisite white Bechamel sauce in between and baked into golden brown vegetarian lasagna.
A vegetarian lasagna recipe is a must in a cook’s arsenal. And among the vegetarian version, this spinach lasagna recipe is for ages. Take a healthy leafy green like spinach and turn it into a delicious filling between pasta sheets and layered and topped with all that cheese; it’s a dollop of flavor in each spoonful.
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Why this spinach lasagna recipe works
This recipe is very close to the authentic bolognese lasagna version and tastes good or better than the ones you get in nearby restaurants or frozen items from stores.
- We make many parts from scratch – the white bechamel sauce and the spinach filling.
- It uses three types of cheese – mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta for that delicious cheesy pull effect and taste.
- The spinach filling is just delicious. It has super flavor from aromatics like garlic and onion and the herbs like nutmeg.
Lasagna is a dish from the Middle Ages served in almost all Italian restaurants worldwide. The earliest versions differ from the traditional lasagna recipe popular in Italy. Did you know that the Lasagna recipe version, the bolognese version that we are most familiar with, is one of Italy’s two most popular versions? The other version is from Naples in southern Italy.
Lasagna al Forno – the bolognese version of lasagna, which is well known outside Italy – comprises thin pasta sheets layered with thick ragu, cheese, sauces, and spices.
Among vegetarian lasagna fillings, spinach lasagna indeed comes out on top. It has got that cheesy flavor from the mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan. Onions and garlic form a flavor base for the filling, and fresh spinach gives it a soft and thick consistency.
Fresh spinach leaves don’t just boast of a high nutrition profile but are tasty too and mix well with many gravies and sauces. Plus the bechamel sauce makes the filling very rich and creamy and you need this in between the lasagna sheets.
Bechamel sauce is a white sauce and is considered as one of the mother sauces of french cuisine. But it is not exclusive to France and there are variants like Italian and greek bechamel sauce.
It is made from white roux and milk or light cream. I have used Half & half here which is half milk and half heavy cream. Roux is an equivalent mixture of butter and flour and is often used to thicken sauces, soups, and gravy. Making a roux involves slowly stirring in the flour in melted butter.
Bechamel sauce uses spices like nutmeg or aromatics like garlic with salt and pepper for flavor.
Lasagna pasta sheets – dry lasagna sheets from nearby stores should be fine. Most lasagna pasta is made of water and semolina from durum wheat.
Olive oil – the source of the fat for sauteeing aromatics and other ingredients.
Chopped Onions & Minced garlic – usually aromatics to give flavor to the spinach filling.
Fresh spinach leaves – get bright green spinach leaves from the market. Look out for dark green, slimy, or wilted leaves which are stale and should be avoided. The stems of the bunch should be thin. (Read note 1 in ‘Instructions’ on how to prep spinach)
Eggs – are used to bind everything together when baked in the oven. Eggs add protein to the mix and give the cheese a structure.
Mozzarella cheese– Used for its flavor and its bubbling and stretchy nature. Added in all three components of lasagna – sprinkled on each of the pasta layers, used to make the bechamel sauce cheesy and thick and also used along with ricotta and parmesan in the spinach filling.
Ricotta cheese – this cheese does not melt and can be heated or baked without melting. A bite of a lasagna slice will undoubtedly give you the flavor and cheesiness of the ricotta.
Grated Parmesan cheese – parmesan has a gritty and hard texture but shredded parmesan has that mature umami flavor with a nutty and fruity profile and slightly sweet taste.
Seasoning & Spices
Italian seasoning – the mix of spices and herbs that provides a typical flavor blend to Italian dishes.
Pinch of nutmeg – that nutty, warm, and slightly sweetish punch to the overall filling.
Salt & Pepper – salt elevates all the other flavors and pepper balances them with some heat. Add as per taste.
For White Bechamel Sauce
The base of the white bechamel sauce is the roux which is made from fat, flour, and stock.
Garlic cloves – this popular aromatic gives a nice flavor to the white sauce.
Unsalted butter – melted butter is a start to make the roux, which is the base of the bechamel sauce.
All-purpose flour – is added slowly while stirring in melted butter to make the roux.
Chicken broth – the broth is then added to give an intense flavor to the sauce.
Half and half – which is half milk and half cream, is the third basic ingredient apart from the roux, to make the classic bechamel sauce.
How to make spinach lasagna
The below instructions shall start with cooking the lasagna sheets first and then cover – how to make two important components of the lasagna and an important step which are
- Making the white bechamel sauce and
- Prepare the spinach filling that goes between the lasagna layers, and
- How to layer the lasagna correctly.
Cook lasagna sheets
Prepping for lasagna involves cooking the pasta sheet al dente and preheating the oven. In a big vessel, bring water to a boil. Season generously with salt and follow the packet instructions to cook the lasagna to al dente. Do not worry, if it appears slightly undercooked since we will bake the sheets again in the oven where it cooks further.
Preheat the oven to 435 F/ 200 C.
Make White Sauce
The first step in making the white bechamel sauce is to make the roux. Roux is half butter and half flour by proportion. So we start by melting butter in a hot saucepan. We also add olive oil along with butter to increase the burning point of the butter so it does not burn.
Saute minced garlic in the pan for half a minute until you smell its fragrance. Slowly stir in the flour and saute the mixture for a minute on low heat. Watch the mixture bubble and it should be ready. We do not want to let the mixture cook for longer and turn its color brown since we want a white roux for this sauce.
Slowly stir in the chicken broth/stock followed by Half & half. Stir so that the mixture stays smooth and lump-free. Take the sauce off the heat and season with salt and pepper. You can stir in a cup of mozzarella cheese to get that thick cheesy consistency.
Make Spinach filling
Fresh spinach needs blanching in hot water for a minute to become soft. Immediately put it in ice-cold water. Drain the water and chop the spinach. Squeeze the chopped spinach to remove the water.
To start with frozen spinach, defrost it and squeeze it to remove any water content.
Add chopped onion and garlic to hot oil in a skillet. Saute until the onion softens and the garlic releases its fragrance. Add spinach and cook it until any residual water evaporates. Let it cool down.
At the same time while the spinach cools down, drain the ricotta cheese well and in a big mixing well, mix it with the cooked spinach, other cheeses, eggs, seasoning, salt, and pepper. Mix everything well and the spinach filling is ready.
How to layer the lasagne
Start by spreading a couple of tablespoons of the white sauce at the bottom of a baking dish. Arrange 3 sheets of lasagna length-wise to cover the bottom of the dish.
On top of the sheets, spread 1/2 cup of the spinach mixture and then also spread 1/3 cup of the bechamel sauce.
Repeat by layering another 3 sheets of lasagna pasta on top of the spinach and sauce spread. Repeat this 2 more times and you should end with lasagna sheets on top. Spread the remaining white sauce on the topmost lasagna sheets.
Poke the layers with 6-7 toothpicks so that the picks support the foil with which we cover the top of the baking dish. We use the picks so that the foil does not stick to the top sauce on the sheets.
Bake the lasagna
Cover the dish loosely with foil. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Next, remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil and toothpicks.
Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the dish and place the baking dish again in the oven. Bake it for another 10-12 minutes. Watch out to see if the cheese becomes bubbly and brown spots appear. Remove it from the oven then and let it rest.
Sprinkle fresh parsley on top while it rests. Cut the lasagna into rectangular slices and pick the slices from the baking dish with a spatula.
Serve and enjoy !!!
You can store lasagna in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it in the freezer section for up to 3 months. Wrap the lasagna tightly with foil and ensure it is airtight to prevent any freezer burn. Alternatively, store it in an air-tight container.
Reheat the frozen lasagna in the oven. Preheat the oven to 435 F. Sprinkle little water or a spoonful of sauce on top of the lasagna and place it in the oven. Bake it for 45 minutes.
You can also bake refrigerated lasagna in the oven for 15 minutes or even do so in the microwave.
While lasagna can be a meal by itself, you will enjoy it with garlic bread and other accompaniments to up the nutrition profile.
Other Italian recipes
Italian Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing – Creamy and tangy dressing with a spicy kick from peppercorn.
Italian Sausage & Orzo Soup – A one-pot dish made of spicy Italian sausage and orzo pasta.
Chessy Pasta Bake With Sausage – tangy tomato sauce and spicy Italian sausage come together to make this satisfying baked pasta.
Crispy Italian Chicken Cutlet – learn to make the crispiest chicken cutlets at home with Italian seasoning.
Italian Potato & Chicken Bake – cheesy dish made by baking chicken and potatoes with Italian flavors from basil.
Sun-dried Tomato Pasta – A 30-minute cheesy and creamy pasta with flavors from sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and basil.
For White Sauce
- ½ tablespoon garlic cloves
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1.5 cups chicken broth
- 1 cups half and half (or equal parts of heavy cream and milk)
- 1 cup mozzarella
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ medium onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic cloves minced
- 700 grams fresh spinach leaves (24 ounces) ref note 1
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mozzarella
- 400 grams riccotta (15 oz)
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- large Pinch of nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 12 sheets Lasagna Sheets
- 1 cup mozzarella to sprinkle on top
Make White Sauce
- Heat Olive oil and butter in a saucepan. Saute garlic for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Stir in flour and saute for a minute on low heat. The mixture should bubble. Make sure the flour mixture doesn't brown, as we need the sauce to be white in color.
- Lower the heat. Slowly stir in the chicken stock followed by half and half. The mixture should be smooth and lump-free.
- Switch off the heat. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Make Spinach filling
- If using fresh spinach – Blanch spinach in hot water for 1 minute. Then put it in ice-cold water. Drain well. Chop blanched spinach and squeeze as much water as possible.
- If using frozen spinach, defrost and squeeze well to drain all the liquid.
- Heat another tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Add chopped onion and garlic. Saute until the onion has softened and the garlic is aromatic.
- Add spinach to the skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes so that any remaining water from the spinach evaporates. Let the mixture cool down.
- Drain ricotta cheese well.
- In a big mixing bowl add cooked spinach mixture, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan, eggs, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Mix everything well.
Making Spinach Lasagna
- In a big vessel bring enough water to a boil. Season with enough salt. Cook 12 sheets of lasagna until just al dente. If it is little undercooked absolutely fine, as we will bake again along with the sauce and the pasta will get cooked just fine.
- Preheat oven to 425 F / 200 C
- Prepare a 9X13 inch baking dish. Spread a couple of tablespoons of the white sauce.
- Arrange 3 sheets of lasagna. Spread 1/2 cup of spinach mixture (divid spinach mixture to 3 parts) on top then spread 1/3 cup of white sauce.
- Repeat the above step 2 more times. The layering should end with the lasagna sheets as the top layer.
- Spread the remaining white sauce on top. Poke 6-7 toothpicks spaced apart. This will prevent the foil from sticking to the sauce. Loosely cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven. Remove the foil and toothpicks.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake again for. 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and small brown spots appear.
- Sprinkle fresh parsley on top. Let the lasagna rest for 10 before cutting. This will ensure clean slices.