I've been making this lasagna for over 30 years now. It's the only lasagna I've ever made for my family, because it's such a favorite that there was never a reason to look for another.
I began making this lasagna in 1985. That was the year before King-Man and I moved with our 2 boys from Tucson to St. Louis. It was the year Tyler was born and Bracken was 3. This recipe was published in the Tucson Citizen that year, a newspaper that doesn't even exist any more. It's from a regular column they had where local restaurants shared recipes requested by readers. This recipe is from the Blue Willow restaurant. Their lasagna had a distinctive flavor, and I was so happy they shared their recipe. At that time, I had no idea I'd still be making it decades later.
Here's the original recipe from back in the day. Long before we had the option of saving digital copies of recipes, I clipped this one from the newspaper and taped it to a card where it's lived in my recipe card box through all these years. It's old and yellowed now. There's something satisfying about having a recipe with this much family history. It reminds me of countless meals around our table as the years flew by. Over time I've tweaked Blue Willow's recipe a bit, but the main ingredients are the same.
The secret ingredient? There is a healthy dose of white pepper in the sauce. I'd never seen that in an Italian red sauce before, and it makes this lasagna taste amazing and unique. White pepper has a distinctly different flavor from black pepper and is an essential ingredient in this recipe.
A favorite family meal. Below is a photo at our kitchen table in 2005. Bracken and his girlfriend (and future wife) Rachel no longer lived in St. Louis and were in town for a visit. Of course, I had to make Bracken's favorite lasagna and garlic bread. T-Man (techie guy for The Yummy Life) is at the end of the table raising a can of Squirt. I am the happy mom who's loving every minute of having her family together again and enjoying a meal around our table.
Bracken and Rachel are now married and have 2 kids of their own. They often make this lasagna for their family and friends in Boston. The tradition lives on in the next generation.
My go-to meal for company. I often put this on the menu when we are having dinner guests that I don't know well enough to be aware of possible dietary restrictions. It's a vegetarian recipe yet is hearty enough to satisfy meat eaters. Seriously, everyone loves it. I pair it with my Ultimate Garlic Bread and Everyday Italian Salad for an easy, tasty, make-ahead meal.
- per serving: 515 calories, 24.6g fat, 13.2g sat fat, 76mg cholesterol,1072mg sodium, 616mg potassium, 36.4g carbs, 4.1g fiber, 7.3g sugars, 39.2g protein. Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 16
- It's loaded with nutrients and is particularly high in protein, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins A, B6 & B12. It's high in saturated fat from the cheese. (You can reduce the amount of cheese to lower the fat & calories, if you like.)
Step-by-step photos for making
Spinach Mushroom Lasagna
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients:
- olive oil
- canned crushed tomatoes
- tomato paste
- dried oregano and basil
- ground white pepper (note: do not substitute black pepper--it has a different flavor; white pepper is essential in this recipe)
- frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- dry red wine
view on Amazon: ground white pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste
- lasagna noodles -- regular or whole grain. I prefer whole grain for the added nutrition. In something like lasagna, you can't even tell it's whole grain once it's layered and baked with the sauce and cheeses.
view on Amazon: whole grain lasagna noodles, regular lasagna noodles
- grated mozzarella cheese -- I prefer to grate a block of cheese. The pre-shredded cheese is coated with a substance to keep it from clumping that also prevents it from melting as smoothly.
- grated Parmesan cheese
- ricotta cheese -- You can use either whole or part-skim. Use a table knife to cut it into 2 equal portions.
Step 2. Dice the mushrooms and onion, and mince the garlic. (I use my freezer minced garlic.)
Step 3. Make the sauce. In a large pan, heat the olive oil, add garlic, onion, mushrooms, basil, oregano, and white pepper; stir together and saute until softened. Add salt, tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and spinach; stir to combine, heat to a simmer, cover and continue to simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes.
Step 4. While the sauce simmers, add dry lasagna noodles to an oblong dish, cover in the hottest tap water, and soak for 20 minutes. Move the noodles around occasionally to prevent them from sticking together. NOTE: If your tap water isn't piping hot (it should be almost too hot to touch), heat some water on the stove-top and pour it over the noodles.
- There's no need to boil the noodles as most lasagna recipes suggest--a tip I got from Ina Garten. They will soften some in the hot tap water and finish cooking when the lasagna bakes. This is so much easier than boiling a big pot of water and pre-cooking the noodles.
- Before layering the soaked noodles when assembling the lasagna, drain the water from the dish and shake off any excess water as you pick up each noodle. They will have softened slightly, but remain stiff.
Step 5. Assemble the lasagna in a 9x13 baking dish, stacking the ingredients in layers. It looks like a lot of steps, but they go together quickly. Refer to the recipe at the end of this post for amounts in each layer. The order of the layers is pictured below.
Step 6. Cover with foil and bake. Remove the foil half way through baking time so the cheese can brown.
Step 7. Once out of the oven, let the lasagna rest 20-30 minutes to allow it to firm up before cutting and serving. You can cut it sooner, but the melty cheesiness will spread on the plate (but still will taste wonderful!). If you want the slices and layers to hold their shape better, the rest time is important. Scatter on some chopped parsley for an optional garnish.
Make-ahead convenience! Lasagna may be assembled 1-2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated. In fact, the flavor improves after a day in the fridge. Remove the lasagna from the fridge 30-60 minutes to bring it to room temperature before baking.
Make it a meal! Pair the lasagna with these other family favorites:
Ultimate Garlic Bread
Everyday Italian Salad
Freezer friendly! Baked or unbaked lasagna may be covered well and frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw it completely before baking or reheating.
Make it a Yummy day!
Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
Servings: 8 servings
- FOR SAUCE:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced (approx. 1 cup)
- 8 oz. mushrooms, diced (approx. 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons white pepper (substituting black pepper not recommended)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes in puree
- 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- FOR LAYERING:
- 6 lasagna noodles (whole wheat or regular)
- 1 container (15 oz.) ricotta--whole or part skim--room temperature
- 1 cup (4 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
- 16 oz. mozzarella, grated (4 cups)
- FOR OPTIONAL GARNISH:
- chopped Italian parsley
MAKE THE SAUCE:
In 4 qt. or larger pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add onion, mushrooms, garlic, basil, oregano, and white pepper; saute until softened, approx. 5 min. Add salt, tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and spinach; stir to combine, heat to a simmer, cover and continue to simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. (makes approx. 5 cups sauce)
SOAK THE NOODLES:
While the sauce simmers, add dry lasagna noodles to oblong dish, cover in hottest tap water, and soak for 20 minutes. Move the noodles around occasionally to prevent them from sticking together. NOTE: If your tap water isn't piping hot (it should be almost too hot to touch), heat some water on the stove-top and pour it over the noodles.
Drain noodles and shake off any excess water as you pick each one up to layer in the lasagna.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA:
Leaving ricotta in container, use a table knife to divide it into 2 equal portions.
Grease or spray a 9x13 baking dish. Add ingredients as follows, listed beginning with the bottom ingredient, spreading each evenly in pan:
1. Bottom layer: 1 cup sauce
2. 3 noodles
3. half of ricotta
4. 1/3 cup Parmesan
5. 1 1/3 cups mozzarella
6. 2 cups sauce
7. 3 noodles
8. remaining half of ricotta
9. 1/3 cup Parmesan
10. 1 1/3 cups mozzarella
11. remaining sauce (approx. 2 cups)
12. 1/3 cup Parmesan
13. Top layer: remaining mozzarella (approx. 1 1/3 cups)
TO BAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover lasagna with foil, bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, bake another 30 minutes until browned. Let rest 20-30 minutes to allow it to firm up before cutting and serving.
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Lasagna may be assembled 1-2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from fridge 30-60 minutes before baking.
FREEZER FRIENDLY: Baked or unbaked lasagna may be covered well and frozen for 6 months. Thaw completely before baking or reheating.
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION per serving: 515 calories, 24.6g fat, 13.2g sat fat, 1072mg sodium, 616mg potassium, 36.4g carbs, 4.1g fiber, 7.3g sugars, 39.2g protein. Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 16
A 30+ year old family favorite has cheesy indulgence along with nourishing veggies. A distinctively flavored sauce sets it apart from other vegetarian lasagnas, and it's hearty enough to satisfy meat eaters. Make it ahead for convenience and improved flavor. Freezes well. From The Yummy Life