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Jilly Uses Her Noodle in the Kitchen – Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

April 1, 2012

Who doesn’t love lasagna?! You can make so many variations – meat-based, seafood, vegetarian. The trick is to cook the noodles to just the right degree of not-quite-doneness and to layer with a cheese mixture to create some structure to the dish. There’s a third trick to making a divine lasagna I worked out this weekend.

Lately, I have hesitated to cook lasagna because I have been very frustrated lining up the noodles. You would think that’s pretty simple. No. I swear I have been jinxed. The lasagna strips would end up overcooked; they would either rip or stick together; there wouldn’t be the right amount in proportion to the amount of sauce;  or they would slip around once removed from the pan into an undignified shlop! Oftentimes, the pan size just didn`t work. Some people swear by the pan ready noodles but I haven’t had great results with them. So, I resorted to a little geometry and would make Lasagna Roll-ups (see previous page), which satisfied our household when it came to a pan of lasagna.

Another factor I’ve been experimenting with is whether to sauce first or layer with noodles first. Most recipes say sauce first, which is what I have always done but, again, the lasagna just hasn’t turned out so great. This time, I decided to live dangerously and line the pan with a layer of noodles first. The result – a much more satisfying dish that came out in dignified layers, for once.

I daresay, I think I finally got my noodles lined up in the kitchen.

This is a rather time-intensive recipe so save it for a full afternoon when you can devote your attention to it, but oh so worth it! Be forewarned: This dish does not qualify for the no- or low-fat zone in your kitchen.

Serves 6-8, or freeze portions for later.

Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

22 lasagna noodles

Olive oil for sauté

1 package frozen chopped spinach

3 boneless chicken breasts, tendons removed

4-6 white mushrooms, chopped fine

½ large white onion, diced fine

6-8 asparagus spears, broken at mid-point on stem, then chopped into 1” pieces

2 14-oz (410 ml) jars Alfredo pasta sauce

1 package Mozzarella cheese, shredded

½ c. Parmesan cheese

I pint ricotta cheese

1 egg

Splash of white wine

Italian herbs, garlic, salt and pepper to taste

A handful of fresh basil (Basil needs to be treated very delicately or it will bruise. Rinse and cut gently with kitchen scissors.)

Directions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a roiling boil. Add 1 tsp. olive oil and then the lasagna noodles. The olive oil keeps them from sticking together. Cook for 10-12 minutes until just al dente. You don’t want to overcook the noodles or they will turn very soggy in the oven. Drain and then soak in a large bowl of cold water. Drape the noodles over the sink divider for quick access. A few extra noodles ensures the right count for this recipe as usually 1-2 noodles break or split and can be discarded – or disguised in one of the layers, whichever you prefer.
  • While the noodles cook, prepare the chicken breasts.
  • In a large frying pan, cook chicken breasts in olive oil and 3-4 cloves chopped garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add a splash of white wine. Drain on paper towels then shred chicken into small pieces.
  • Thaw spinach in microwave. Drain in colander squeezing out as much moisture as you can.
  • Combine mushrooms, onion and asparagus in frying pan used for chicken, sauté just until mushrooms release their moisture.  
  • In a medium bowl, combine chicken, mushrooms, onions, asparagus and chopped basil. Add a generous dash of Italian herbs ~ 1-2 Tbsp. Add one jar of Alfredo sauce and mix well. In a second bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, one beaten egg, and a dash of salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Now here’s the secret to the layering part:

  • Have ready a large tinfoil lasagna pan (~14 ½” X 11”) or similar sized deep dish casserole. Spray with olive oil or Pam.
  • Line bottom with 4 lasagna noodles, overlapping the edges.
  • Layer with ½ the chicken/Alfredo mixture.
  • Sprinkle with a dash of Italian herbs.
  • Layer with 4 more lasagna noodles.
  • Sprinkle with half the Mozzarella and light layer of Parmesan cheese.
  • Layer another 4 more lasagna noodles.
  • Layer with remaining chicken/Alfredo sauce mix.
  • Layer with 4 more lasagna noodles.
  • Layer with the ricotta/spinach/egg mixture.  
  • Sprinkle with another dash of Italian herbs.
  • Layer with remaining lasagna noodles.
  • Sprinkle with a light layer of Parmesan cheese. Pour second jar of Alfredo sauce on this layer then top with remaining Mozzarella. By this time you will have gained at least 5 pounds.
  • Cover with foil. Place pan on a cookie sheet as a tinfoil pan won’t hold the lasagna safely.

Bake for one hour. Remove tinfoil, bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, then broil just a few minutes until cheese turns bubbly and golden.

Let sit for a few minutes then divide into portions.

Serve with garlic bread, a light green salad, and a good white wine. Buon appetito!

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