Do I Need to Cook Spinach Before I Put it in a Lasagna?

Including flavorful spinach in your favorite lasagna recipe will give it a burst of green color and a nutritional punch — spinach is packed with iron and other vitamins and minerals. Because raw spinach contains a lot of water, you may wish to cook it first before you add it to your fresh spinach lasagna.

Add spinach to your favorite lasagna recipe to boost nutrition.
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Tips

When making a fresh spinach lasagna using raw spinach, you’ll probably want to cook the spinach first so your lasagna doesn’t turn out too watery. If you use frozen spinach, you can simply thaw and drain it thoroughly before using.

Cook Fresh Spinach Lasagna

Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse. A fact sheet published by Colorado State University touts spinach's attributes as a low calorie, nutrient dense ingredient that may be added to many recipes — or simply eaten raw in salads.

A good source of vitamins A, C and folate, spinach also contains minerals including manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron. It is also a good source of fiber. In addition, spinach contains flavonoids (antioxidant compounds).

There are many takes on fresh spinach lasagna — you could add spinach to your usual recipe. To do that, as you make the layers, top the red sauce with washed, cooked and chopped spinach leaves. Alternately, if you are not too concerned with moisture in your lasagna — especially if you are using no-boil lasagna noodles — you could sprinkle chopped raw spinach on top of the sauce. But in general it's best to cook the spinach first because the natural water in spinach will be released during cooking and can make your recipe too watery..

Many recipes call for cooked spinach to be mixed in with the ricotta cheese filling. A spinach lasagna with cottage cheese as a delicious ricotta substitute is another option. In either case, you'll need about 20 ounces of fresh spinach. Wash the spinach leaves. In a large frying pan, place the spinach with about 2 tablespoons of water. Cook the spinach over medium-low heat until wilted, then drain the water and roughly chop the spinach before incorporating it into the cheese.

Read more: Creative Low-Carb Lasagna Recipes to Help You Eat More Vegetables

Try Spinach and Meat Lasagna

You could also make a spinach and meat lasagna. When you are cooking the meat sauce, stir in the washed and chopped spinach leaves. Cook until the spinach is wilted, then let the sauce simmer until it is thick and most of the water has been reduced. This will help keep the final lasagna from being too watery.

You could try other greens in place of the spinach. For example, Swiss or rainbow chard performs similarly to spinach when it's cooked, though chard may need a slightly longer cooking time. Make sure to remove the ribs before you cook it because they can be tough.

Likewise with kale, although it is a tougher green and will need to be cooked much longer than spinach (kale is best boiled until tender in a pot of water). Again, drain as much water as possible from the greens before using in a recipe.

If you prefer, you may use frozen spinach in place of raw spinach. You won't need to cook frozen spinach, but you will need to thaw and drain it completely before using. Frozen spinach may be thawed in the microwave according to package directions, boiled in a pot of water on the stove or strained in the sink under running water. Make sure to squeeze out as much water as possible before using in the fresh spinach lasagna or spinach and meat lasagna recipe.

Read more: List of Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

Fresh Spinach Lasagna Recipe

12 to 16 dried lasagna noodles

3 to 4 cups tomato sauce, homemade or purchased

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) cooked spinach, squeezed dry and chopped

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

1 large egg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles six at a time until tender but not fully cooked. Remove noodles with tongs and lay flat on a towel.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg and spinach.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with the olive oil. Spread a large spoonful of tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish and place four noodles on top of the sauce. Top with a layer of tomato sauce, and one-fourth of the ricotta and one-fourth of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Repeat the layers twice and top with the remaining noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. Finish with a final layer of noodles and top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan.

Place lasagna in the oven and bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes before serving.

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