This year’s Mother’s Day crept up on me very unexpectedly… I had been traveling in India for about a month and when I was making myself at home… POOF! Mother’s Day is here!!!!!
For the last few years, I have been making a big part of our family lunch reunions – partly because I am the food blogger extraordinaire, creator of all recipes delicious, but most of all, because I am the one vegetarian with the least responsibility. My mom is super busy taking care of my grandma and that consumes most of her day. And if the vegetarians want to make sure they have something to eat besides salad, I need to take charge. Besides, it’s Mother’s Day, how am I going to make my Mom or Aunt cook???
I had to deal with what I had in the pantry and freezer – some lasagna noodles, frozen corn, frozen spinach, a few shredded cheeses, milk (thank God for UHT) and spices. I was drawing a blank because I didn’t want to make just spinach lasagna again… I had made one recently at Thanksgiving. And here comes my friend, Giada Di Laurentiis, with a recipe for mini lasagnas made of sweet corn and mascarpone. I took some inspiration from her recipe, a quick trip to the 24-hour supermarket, combined with my audacity to use up what I had available and make sure I had enough lasagna to feed 10 people, I came up with this recipe. It looks like it has a lot of ingredients, but it’s actually super easy to make. Check it out…
CORN AND SPINACH LASAGNA
½ package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry 1 package of frozen corn, thawed 9 whole-wheat lasagna sheets A whole recipe of White Sauce (recipe follows) ½ cup heavy cream 3 garlic cloves, chopped 8 ounces cream cheese, divided (we’ll use half for the corn mixture and half for the white sauce) 1 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese, divided (we’ll use part with the corn mixture and the rest for the lasagna assembly) 2 cups of grated Italian blend cheeses, divided (part for the white sauce and part for the lasagna assembly) The zest and juice of 1 yellow lemon About 25 fresh basil leaves, well washed and dried ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt A few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper Extra virgin olive oil spray for the casserole dish For the White Sauce: 2 cups of milk 2 tbs of sofrito 1/2 cup parmesan cheese The cheeses mentioned in the list above (the cream cheese and the Italian shredded cheese blend) Salt and Pepper to taste
Note: My apologies if I confused you with the ingredients list above… I just want to let you know that for making this whole recipe you’ll need a bar of cream cheese, a tub of grated pecorino romano and a 2-cup bag of shredded cheese. I just didn’t want YOU to do the math of how much ingredients you need in total when I already know it. It’s easier to give you the whole amount for when you’re making your grocery list, even though you’ll use it in various applications within the same recipe. Cool?? I hope so…
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the lasagna noodles and cook until tender, stirring occasionally to avoid any sticking, about 8-10 minutes. Drain.
- Meanwhile we make the white sauce… In a medium saucepan over medium heat add a bit of olive oil and the sofrito. Cook a few minutes to remove the raw taste. Add the milk and 4 ounces of cream cheese (half of a cream cheese bar) and stir every so often to melt the cheese and start to thicken the sauce. When the cream cheese is incorporated into the milk, add about 1 cup of the Italian shredded cheeses, the parmesan cheese and remove from heat. Whisk all together to melt and blend the cheeses and thicken the sauce. Set aside.
- In a food processor, blend the corn, spinach, cream and garlic. Add the rest of the cream cheese (you should have ½ a bar left), 2/3 cup of the Pecorino Romano cheese, the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Add the basil leaves last and pulse until just combined. Set aside.
- In a 9” x 13” glass baking dish sprayed with olive oil spray, place some ladles of the white sauce to prevent anything from sticking. Place 3 lasagna noodles at the bottom. Add ½ of the corn/spinach mixture, add a few ladles of white sauce to cover it all, sprinkle some of the shredded cheeses and some of the pecorino romano. And we start over again, another layer of noodles, the rest of the corn/spinach mixture, more sauce, shredded cheeses and pecorino romano. Lastly, top with the last layer of noodles, pour enough white sauce to cover the noodles and allow it to seep into the rest of the lasagna. Finish off with the remaining shredded cheeses and pecorino romano you may have left.
- Place the glass dish on a baking sheet to prevent any spilling in the oven and bake for about 3o minutes, until the filling/sauce is bubbling and the top gets golden brown. If the top takes too long to brown, just turn on the broiler for a few minutes to get the desired color on top.
- Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
My aunt and uncle were raving all afternoon about this lasagna. The funny thing is that you might believe the filling is sweet due to the corn, but its savory and delicious… with traces of corn flavor, but the piquancy of the lemon zest and basil. It’s different and very, very delicious.