italian cheese, baby spinach, and chicken lasagna

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in tasteovers by jackie | 2 comments

italian cheese, baby spinach, and chicken lasagna

Makes 9 servings

Need a dish for a casual yet special occasion? This is it! It’s for palates that will appreciate a culinary splurge and the home cook who enjoys the challenge of lengthier recipes. Though, you won’t need to cook the lasagna noodles in advance; so at least I saved you a step there. This lovely dish is a fresher, more flavorful, and more filling comfort food fix than its original version thanks to mushrooms, various cheeses, extra garlic, lemon zest, and more. What’s more, this luscious lasagna rings in at only 500 calories a serving; that’s a savings of more than 200. The sodium is cut by more than a whopping 1000mg … now you’ll have a meal’s worth rather than a day’s worth of it! And if you’re looking for fiber, I’ve doubled it here. Simply serve this rather elegant lasagna with a leafy salad and … voila … a memorable, mouth-watering meal. Savor it!

Calories Saved: 210

3/4 cup part-skim organic ricotta cheese
3 1/2 ounces soft organic or local artisanal goat cheese
2 cups (12 ounces) diced roasted organic or antibiotic-free chicken white meat*
Zest (grated peel) of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 1/4 cups (7 ounces) thinly sliced fresh local or baby bella mushrooms
20 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted organic butter
1 large white onion, chopped
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or garbanzo bean flour
2 cups low-sodium organic chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/3 cups fat-free organic milk
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded organic part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup (3 1/4 ounces) grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
1/2 packed cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
12 (0.7-ounce each) whole grain lasagna noodles (do not boil!)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded organic sharp or aged Provolone cheese
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese

  1. Stir together the ricotta, goat cheese, chicken, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook while tossing with tongs until wilted. Drain excess liquids through a strainer. Transfer to a bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and remaining salt and cook while stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the broth and milk and bring to a boil while continuing to stir for 1 minute. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, 1/4 cup of the basil, oregano, and hot pepper flakes. Remove from heat. Adjust seasoning.
  4. In a 9- x 13-inch baking dish, layer evenly as follows: 1/3 of the sauce, 4 noodles, chicken mixture, 4 noodles, 1/3 of the sauce, spinach-mushroom mixture (along with any residual liquids in the bowl), remaining mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese, remaining 4 noodles (press down firmly), remaining sauce, Provolone cheese, and Romano cheese.
  5. Bake until cooked through and cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese and place under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes for extra brownness.
  6. Let stand for about 15 minutes to allow juices to settle. Cut into 9 portions, sprinkle with the remaining basil, and serve.

Per serving: 500 calories, 23g total fat, 13g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 80mg cholesterol, 970mg sodium, 38g total carbohydrate, 8g dietary fiber, 4g sugars, 36g protein

*For a vegetarian version, replace the chicken with 2 cups diced roasted eggplant or zucchini.

The “Before” Recipe

white cheese chicken lasagna
submitted by Amy M (California)

Makes 8 servings

9 lasagna noodles
1/2 cup salted butter
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 cups diced roasted chicken white and dark meat
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lasagna noodles and boil until just softened, about 8 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cold water.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and salt and sauté until bubbly. Stir in the broth and milk and bring to a boil while stirring for 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, and pepper. Remove from heat.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9- x13-inch baking dish. Layer with 1/3 of the noodles. Top evenly with the ricotta and chicken. On top, layer 1/3 of the noodles, 1/3 of the sauce mixture, spinach, remaining mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. On top, layer the remaining noodles and spread evenly with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Let stand for about 10 minutes, cut into 8 portions, and serve.

Per serving: 710 calories, 40g total fat, 23g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 150mg cholesterol, 2270mg sodium, 46g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 10g sugars, 42g protein

Tasteover Tips

  1. For lovelier flavor notes, use fresh ingredients—fresh spinach instead of frozen and fresh herbs instead of dried—when possible.
  2. Don’t over-focus on cutting fat by using fat-free or low fat cheese; instead, go mainly for more variety and/or sharper flavors which will synergistically create the essence of more cheesy goodness even if you use less cheese.
  3. Keep the real butter, but use just enough for function and just-right richness; it’ll let all of the other interesting ingredients have the flavor spotlight, too.
  4. Punch up aromatic ingredients, like onion and garlic, and add fresh zing, such as with lemon zest, for extra deliciousness.
  5. Increase satisfaction by switching to whole grains of choice in place of refined grains.
  6. Boost volume, flavor, and nutrition at the same time with the addition of mushrooms … it’s one of my favorite savory ingredients in calorie-friendly cuisine.


  1. Any suggestions for an alternative to goat cheese?

    • Hi Erika: Sure. Instead of goat cheese, simply use more ricotta. Try 1 1/4 cups ricotta rather than 3/4 cup. Hope it turns out well for you! Jackie

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