You know that feeling when you try to serve your family something new? Something healthier? You don’t immediately call it out, but kind of hold your breath a little as they take the first bite. That was the situation for me the first time I made these Spinach Ricotta Lasagna Rolls.
My kids like salads and lettuce. For some reason the word spinach turns them off. I knew they would be thrilled to have their own little roll. I was nervous that once they cut into it and saw all the green pieces their forks would fall and the battle would begin.
Guess what? It never happened! In fact we talked about the spinach in the rolls and they didn’t care. These rolls have such great flavor it doesn’t even matter what they are made with, just that they taste good. This is another one of those meals that is super easy to make with mostly organic ingredients and won’t even cost a lot more when you do. Organic pasta is everywhere and most store brands are not much more than conventional.
I really like keeping this meal in the rotation for a meatless idea. It is a nice, light option year-round. A lot of times lasagna can feel so heavy and be so labor intensive (although I do have a killer lasagna recipe you can look forward to!), but these are not that at all.
The lasagna flavor without all the work and the gut bomb regret. Or maybe I just always overeat traditional lasagna?! Either way, we love to eat these rolls with some garlic bread (of course), sometimes a salad, and some easy fruit. Protein, whole grains, dairy, fruit, vegetable, bam! Well-rounded meal.
These rolls freeze well and I usually end up with enough filling to make some extra to save for a future easy meal. Or at least a few for the kids which really come in handy pre-date night or for a quick lunch.
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Ricotta – It is not always easy to find organic ricotta. Organic Valley has a great whole milk version and there are some rBGH free options. When I can’t use organic cheese I try to at least make sure it comes from cows not treated with rBGH (a nasty artificial hormone that forces cows to produce more milk, not something I want inside my kids – or anyone ever for that matter!). Because it is such a huge part of this meal, it is worth it to spend a little more for a higher quality brand. The European Union does not allow the use of rBGH so any brand imported from Italy is a good bet too.
Spinach – Conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested. It is #2 on the EWG.org ‘Dirty Dozen‘ this year. It is imperative that you buy organic spinach. Luckily you should not have a problem finding it. I almost always end up getting the big container at Costco because it is such a great value. This recipe barely makes a dent in it but we use it for smoothies, salads, and other meals. I will throw anything left when the best by date hits into the freezer to use later. Sometimes I accidentally wait too long and have to dump it out. Then I feel really guilty but try to take some comfort in recycling the container.
I really like using fresh organic spinach, which is easier to find than frozen organic spinach but both are out there. If you prefer the 10 oz frozen spinach just thaw and drain very well (squeeze it in a tea towel) before using. I love to use my kitchen shears on spinach, it makes fast work of getting little pieces. I usually grab a handful, line them up in the same direction to cut off the stem to discard. Then I just cut the whole stack in random small shapes, so easy.
I have a pair similar to these. I really like being able to separate the blades for cleaning. They are great on raw chicken too but I can’t handle little crevices which might not be cleaned after touching raw meat! Watch your fingers when snipping the spinach leaves, trust me the blades are sharp as knives!
Parmesan – I do grate my own cheese, of any kind, when possible. However I am all about making life easier which is why I continue to keep a bottle of the pre-grated stuff in my fridge. While the traditional ‘green shaker’ might not be the most ideal choice, there are several organic versions out there like this one from Organic Valley. Take a look at labels if you have options. If you can, avoid rBGH and GMOs for a better product. I like the 365 brand from Whole Foods for a great price on a good product.
Organic marinara, lasagna noodles, eggs, and mozzarella are almost always included in a grocery store’s generic organic line which will be the best value. I recently found this sauce and I can’t wait to try it. If you don’t have Italian seasoning on hand or don’t use it very often, consider buying it from the bulk section of your local health food store.
As with all of my recipes, you can use all, some, or none of the organic ingredients and get a similar result. These are just suggestions and examples of how to make this dish organically.
Spinach Ricotta Lasagna Rolls
A light but full-flavored alternative to traditional lasagna. Easy to make with organic ingredients that won't break your budget.
- 9 Lasagna Noodles Make extra to allow for breakage and extra filling
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 15 oz container Ricotta Cheese Look for organic or rBGH free
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups Chopped Organic Spinach can sub 10 oz Organic Frozen Spinach, thawed & well drained
- 1/2 cup Parmesan
- 1 Egg
- 1 clove Garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
- 14 oz Marinara Sauce use more to taste
- 1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Adding 1 Tbsp olive oil to the boiling water eliminates pieces sticking together. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
I have found organic noodles tear more easily than conventional. Maybe it is just me, but it is a good idea to make a few more in case you have extra filling anyway.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish with a thin layer of marinara sauce.
Combine egg, spinach, ricotta, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, I use appx 1/4 tsp each.
Lay out several lasagna noodles at a time on cutting board. Test for sticking, if needed use parchment paper instead. Silicone baking liners work well too.
Spread 4-5 Tbsp of ricotta filling over each noodle. Roll up gently, tight enough to securely stay together but not so tight as to push out filling. Place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining lasagna noodles.
Pour remaining marinara sauce over top of the rolls by the spoonful. Top each roll with a big pinch of shredded mozzarella (appx 1 Tbsp each).
Cover baking dish with foil. Bake at 350 for 35 - 40 minutes or until cheese is melted. Enjoy!
Make rolls through step 5, tightly double cover with foil and freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw overnight and follow baking instructions.
Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything