Using frozen cheese ravioli makes lasagna easy
  • Monday, June 17, 2019
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Using frozen cheese ravioli makes lasagna easy

  • TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

    Cheater’s Lasagna with Italian sausage.

Classic Italian lasagna is pure comfort food, with a purpose. A large pan feeds a crowd, so you can make it for a party or bring it to someone who needs comforting.

And let’s face it: A pan of lasagna baking in the oven makes the kitchen smell wonderful.

But few lasagna recipes carry the quick-and-easy label. Some have a laundry list of ingredients and directions.

There are noodles to boil, cheeses to shred and meat to cook. When it comes to a sauce, you can make your own red sauce (or use your favorite jarred version) or make a bechamel (white sauce). Or use both.

Still, most lasagna recipes aren’t really practical on a weeknight. This Cheaters Lasagna — with shortcuts that can ease some prep work — is the answer.

Think of it as a quick dinner option to toss together for unexpected guests. It’s a dish you can have ready for kids after a sports practice or game. You can freeze it for up to three months.

This recipe is one that I’ve had squirreled away for some time. I first came across it in the cookbook “Real Simple Meals Made Easy” from the editors of Real Simple Magazine.

What takes away much of the hassle is cheese ravioli. It eliminates having to boil noodles, while also taking care of a layer of ricotta cheese.

The pillows of ravioli bake into an even layer that looks and tastes like a traditional lasagna.

You’ll want to use large or even jumbo frozen ravioli and partially thaw them — ensuring they heat all the way through in the oven. The only cooking involved is browning the sausage and, if you like, making your own tomato sauce. Looked for chopped spinach in 16-ounce bags. If you can’t find chopped, use leaf spinach, breaking it up in the bag while it’s still frozen. Frozen spinach in the bag thaws quicker than smaller block packages.

If you have all the ingredients ready, including cooking the sausage, it takes about 10 minutes to prep the dish for baking. You can use the baking time to toss together a fresh salad.

CHEATERS LASAGNA WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE

Adapted from “Real Simple Meals Made Easy,” by Renee Schettler (Real Simple Book, $24.95)

  • 1 (24- to 26-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce or make your own (see note below)
  • 2 (24-ounce) bags frozen large or jumbo cheese ravioli, partially thawed
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese or Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh torn basil, for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon one-third of the pasta sauce into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Place half the ravioli on top of the sauce in a single layer — squeeze them in if necessary. Sprinkle with the cooked sausage, spinach and half the mozzarella. Layer on the remaining ravioli. Top with the remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Uncover and bake until bubbling, 5 to 10 minutes more. Serves 8 (generously).

>> How to make a quick tomato sauce: In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Saute 2 minced cloves garlic for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup chopped onion and finely chopped carrot, if you like. Add a 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with all their juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; stir in some chopped fresh basil. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3 days or frozen for about a month.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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