ATK/Cook’s Country Spinach and Tomato Lasagna

Since I last updated I have celebrated a birthday and went on a short vacation, which itself was a combination wedding anniversary/birthday celebration. My husband was out of town for work on my birthday, but the day after he returned we packed up the car for a short-ish drive to the Finger Lakes region of New York. We’d never been before and we will certainly go back!

For my birthday I received two glorious cookbooks: the Cook’s Country cookbook and 100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve written before of my love for ATK and I don’t think you can put a foot wrong with their recipes; I have relied on their book The Best 30-Minute Recipe for years and would recommend it to anyone in need of good dinner ideas.

We came up with the idea of going through the books and writing down recipes we like so we can draw them from a jar each weekend to determine what to make for Saturday/Sunday supper. In the meantime, though, I was looking through the Cook’s Country book for a Thursday night idea and alighted on the recipe for spinach and tomato lasagna.

I will admit to some fussiness about veggie lasagna. It always sounds good to me but it can go very wrong in execution. Throwing every vegetable in the crisper drawer into the filling just doesn’t work, in my opinion. Some will be too crunchy and some too soggy. Summer squash and zucchini are both vegetables that I like to cook and eat but they can release a lot of water in the cooking process. Eggplant can easily go slimy, and carrots – well if you’re putting carrots in lasagna I just don’t know what to do with you. And perhaps this is just me, but when you gob that many vegetables together in one dish it ends up tasting like none of them in particular.

This recipe avoids the texture issues altogether by focusing on two flavors: spinach and tomato. You process the thawed frozen spinach and incorporate that into both the sauce and the cheese filling. No-boil noodles add just the right amount of resistance. My husband declared it the best lasagna he’d ever had, and I’m sure he’s biased but it really was very good. I followed this recipe to the letter with the exception of the cheese – it calls for three cups of mozzarella but I made do with two. I also used about half the parmesan called for, but only because I underestimated how much I had in the fridge. Next time I would use the full amount because of the saltiness/flavor and the body it adds to the filling. I didn’t miss the extra cup of mozzarella, though.

The only “complaint” I seem to have about ATK recipes in general – The Best 30-Minute Recipe being an exception – is that you do find yourself with a lot of dirty dishes afterward. I have a dishwasher (and for that matter, two hands, a scrubber and a bottle of soap) so this isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened but if you hate a chaotic kitchen or loathe cleanup it may bother you more than it bothers me.

If you consider, though, that this is often in pursuit of achieving the best possible result, it may seem more worth it in the end. Recipes cooked in only one pot are great if the components lend themselves to this method. Otherwise you’re just compromising somewhere, and why go to the effort of cooking if you’ll end up somewhat disappointed with the result?

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