Lasagna Roll-Ups stuffed with Chicken and Italian Cheeses

Have you ever had a Lasagna Roll-Up? These things are awesome! Great for supper time, pretty as an appetizer or to serve up something different at your next pot luck. I’ve made Lasagna Roll-Ups using just an Italian Cheese filler, with Italian Sausage, a traditional meat filling and with today’s share, cooked chicken. Any cooked chicken will do, from last night’s left over roasted chicken to a rotisserie chicken from your local deli. To transform this recipe into an appetizer, simply cut the lasagna noodle in half width-wise to create two short noodles. Fill as you normally would, roll tightly and then cut in half again. Bake, remove from pan with cocktail skewers and plate with some Marinara Sauce for dipping. As a supper, the lasagna roll-ups are great for kids since the rolled lasagna is easier for little hands to handle. For a fancier presentation, ladle some sauce in the center of a plate, place three roll-ups upright in the sauce and top with some fresh basil for garnish. Paired with some warm, soft bread sticks and a nice Italian salad, you’ve got the makings for a supper fit for company. The sky is the limit.

The pasta sauce for this dish can be any red sauce of your choosing. I like to mix mine with some Italian-Style chopped tomatoes for extra flavor and texture. Fresh, chopped Roma tomatoes also work well when in season.

Chicken and Italian Cheese Stuffed Lasagna Roll-Ups 
8 Lasagna Noodles, cooked
3 cups Chicken, cooked
1/4 cup Milk
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (just a pinch)
3/4 Cup Baby Spinach, torn into pieces
2 cups Pasta Sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/2 Cup Basil, finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook Lasagna noodles until just al-dente. Drain and lay noodles flat on a baking pan in a single layer until ready to fill. By laying the pasta out flat, this will make rolling tightly a little easier. The pasta should be warm and pliable.

While the water comes to a boil and the Lasagna noodles cook, prepare the filling.

Shred/chop cooked chicken meat as you would for chicken salad, into smaller pieces that will blend easily with the rest of the filling mixture. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Combine chicken with milk, Ricotta and feta cheeses.  Season with pepper. Stir/fold mixture to blend.

Spread about 1/2 cup of the filling mixture on each Lasagna noodle. Top chicken mixture with a sprinkling of torn baby spinach leaves. Press lightly to hold spinach in the cheese mixture.

Roll each filled noodle jelly-roll fashion. Spread pasta sauce into a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Arrange Lasagna rolls, seam-side down on top of the sauce in the baking dish.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until hot.

While pasta is baking, finely chop fresh basil. In a small bowl, mix basil with Parmesan cheese and set aside until ready to use.

Once roll-ups are hot, remove from oven, remove foil and sprinkle with basil/Parmesan mixture. Return to the oven, bake another 8-10 minutes or until cheese has melted and is just beginning to brown.

Serve and enjoy! If desired, drizzle with some of the pasta sauce and more Parmesan cheese.

A Midsummer Night’s Delight – Lasagna with a Meaty Sauce and Mini Garlic Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread. Monkey Bread. What a fun thing to say. Monkey Bread.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t even dream of making Lasagna in the summer. I try to avoid anything that is baked in the oven, even for a short time. I try to avoid dishes that are heavy when it’s hot. Summer is a time for light meals, and lots of cooking outdoors.

So why did I make such a heavy meal on a hot summer night? Recently, we had a big family get together that was pot luck. When it came time to dish up our plates, my guys became rather excited to see Lasagna on the table. That is until they realized the Lasagna was a vegetarian dish. The looks of disappointment on their faces was sad. Mind you, I don’t have anything against vegetarian Lasagna, but my guys had their taste buds primed for a meaty, cheesy 3-pound plus Lasagna like the ones I make. Naturally, I felt compelled to make one the very next weekend. It was almost my duty to do so.

As long as I was making an old, familiar recipe, I wanted to try something new as a side. Mini Garlic Monkey Bread seemed the perfect fit (along with a crisp salad of fresh tomatoes and young greens) to serve with the Lasagna. Especially since both the lasagna and the bread baked at the same temperature for about the same amount of time.

While I assembled the Lasagna layers, Kiddo prepared the Monkey Bread. Naturally, we made up songs about monkey bread just to make each other laugh. Kiddo is a great help in the kitchen, even if he moves at a snail’s pace. I had the Lasagna ready for the oven while he was still peeling garlic for the monkey bread. Rather than waste more time chopping, we used my garlic presses (yeah, I have more than 1), which was fine since pressed garlic mingled with the biscuit dough better than chopped garlic.

yellowtail wineMaybe I should have saved this recipe for a more appropriate time – like winter when a warm oven is a good thing. Truth be told, I’ve had a little too much wine with dinner to think about such practical things. Before we get into the recipes, let’s chat a moment about tonight’s wine. Hubby and I decided recently that we should start serving wine with our meals whenever appropriate to do so. Wine doesn’t go well with hamburgers or an egg salad sandwich. I suppose you could drink wine with just about anything, but some foods are just naturally better paired with a good bottle of wine than others. Anything Italian screams “wine” in my opinion. At the grocery store (of all places) we picked up an inexpensive bottle of wine from Australia – Yellow Tail Shiraz, 2013. It’s a label we were unfamiliar with, and a young wine at that. What a delightful surprise! Beautiful, deep coloring, with a subtle bouquet and long luscious legs. It is light and a yet full-bodied wine with just a hint of sweetness. I’m not usually one to recommend a wine, but this one deserves a taste.

E ora per Lasagna con sugo di carne abbondante . . .

Lasagna with Italian Meat Sauce
Ingredients – Meat Sauce
1 lb Bulk Italian Sausage, Hot or Mild
1 lb Ground Beef
1 tablespoon butter
2 onions, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce, 24 oz or Favorite Homemade Sauce
1 Can Italian Stewed Tomatoes
Salt & Pepper to taste

Ingredients – Pasta Layers
9 Lasagna sheets, cooked according to package directions
1-2 teaspoons Sea Salt

Ingredients – Seasoned Cheese Blend 
1 Container (16 oz) Cottage Cheese
1 Container (12 oz) Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
¼ Cup Romano Cheese, Shredded
2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning

Ingredients – Top Cheese Layer
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese, Shredded
½ Cup Romano Cheese, Shredded
¼ Cup Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded

MEAT SAUCE: Brown ground meat in butter until done. Transfer to a large sauce pot. Sauté chopped onions and garlic in same skillet until transparent. Add to meat. Add Spaghetti sauce. Stir to blend. Simmer for 15-20 minutes for flavors to meld. Set aside

LASAGNA NOODLES: Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil. Cook pasta al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water.

SEASONED BLENDED CHEESE LAYER: In a large bowl, mix cottage cheese, Ricotta Cheese, 3/4 Cup Mozzarella Cheese and Italian seasonings. Set aside.

TOP CHEESE LAYER: In a small bowl, mix Parmesan, Romano and Mozzarella cheeses. Crumble to blend well. Set aside.

TO ASSEMBLE: Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

Line casserole dish with a layer of lasagna noodle. Spoon a third of the meat sauce top of noodles, spread evenly. Spoon about a third of the seasoned cheese mix over meat sauce.

Place second layer of noodles, press down to smooth out seasoned cheese layer. Spread a third of meat sauce over the pasta, followed by the about a third of the cheese mixture.

Place a third layer of noodles, spread with remaining meat sauce. Top the final layer of meat sauce with remaining blended cheese and sprinkle with the top layer of Parmesan, Romano, Mozzarella cheeses.

Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly, with a nice golden layer of Parmesan Cheese blend.

Mini Garlic Monkey BreadMini Garlic Monkey Bread
2 (7.5 oz) cans buttermilk biscuits
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

Open cans of biscuits, separate and lay each biscuit onto a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the biscuits into 4 pieces and place in a bowl.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Combine remaining ingredients into the melted butter and pour over biscuit pieces.  Gently toss to evenly coat.  Place 6-7 pieces of biscuit into each cup. If desired, sprinkle biscuits with additional Parmesan Cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  Serve warm.

Alzare il bicchiere per una splendida serata!