Published March 1, 2004.
We dump the mozzarella, add cottage cheese, and soak no-boil noodles in hot tap water. Is this any way to treat a northern Italian classic?
A test kitchen sampling of representative recipes revealed that most cookbook authors tried to add "personality" by seasoning the lasagna with extraneous, bold ingredients. One, with an excess of garlic and bunches of basil, tasted not like spinach but pesto. Another was overwhelmed by pungent Gorgonzola. Tomato-based spinach lasagnas (which are quite common) weren't much good either, although the acidic, sweet tomatoes distracted tasters from the slimy spinach--perhaps a blessing in disguise.
In northern Italy, where traditional spinach lasagna has its roots, cooks keep things simple, combining layers of homemade pasta, fresh spinach, béchamel (white sauce), and cheese. It makes an ideal entrée for informal dinner parties, given its delicate flavors and straightforward ingredient list. A successful spinach lasagna contains fresh, green spinach highlighted by a delicate, savory sauce, tender noodles, and mild, creamy cheese.
Start with no-boil noodles but soak them in hot tap water for five-minutes to soften. Blanch the spinach and then wring out to remove all excess water. Layer the noodles and spinach with traditional béchamel, fontina, and Parmesan cheeses and, instead of ricotta, use cottage cheese. The cottage cheese, pureed with an egg to smooth out its curds, may be heretical to a northern Italian cook, but it provides a pleasing tang and extra creaminess without the distinct, somewhat dry layer created by ricotta. Bake just 20 minutes in the oven and then brown quickly under the broiler.list of recipes