I thought I'd start out the week making a classic dish using two nontraditional ingredients that seldom (if ever) make their way into my kitchen, brown rice noodles and ground turkey. This recipe for Turkey-Spinach Lasagne from The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook is one of the only recipes that I'll be sharing this week that calls for a gluten-free substitute—in this case the brown rice pasta.
I was curious to see how it would compare texturally and flavor-wise to its semolina counterpart. Lasagna seemed like the ideal way to test out the integrity of this gluten-free pasta. If the texture and flavor were a little off than the other elements of the dish would likely counteract whatever flaws the pasta might have.
The recipe starts with Maltin's Marinara Sauce which is a fresh, quickly cooked version with just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. Next came the turkey-spinach filling—I won't be giving up ground beef for turkey anytime soon but the addition of lots of leafy spinach was lovely. The brown rice noodles from my market were the no-cook version, so when it came time to assemble the lasagna it was merely a matter of layering the noodles, sauce, turkey, and cheese. I popped it into the oven and waited for the cheese to brown.
When it came time to slice the finished lasagna I was nervous. The surface looked perfect, but what about the noodles? I was worried, but dug in. While the pasta texture was a little more mushy than I'd like, it had none of the tell-tale grittiness that sometimes comes with rice-based products. The combination of the marinara sauce, spinach-turkey filling, and plenty of cheese more than made up for any slightly unusual flavors the pasta might have.
And after a few bites, it was barely perceptible and really satisfying. It made for a very filling and fulfilling Sunday night meal and brown rice noodles or not, I'm looking forward to the leftovers.
- One 1-pound package brown rice lasagna noodles (such as Tinkyada)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground turkey (can substitute ground chicken or beef)
- 1 yellow onion, diced 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 pound fresh spinach
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 recipes Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
- 6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, diced
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, onions, ketchup, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the turkey is fully cooked and the onions are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Set aside until ready for assembly.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt, 1 tablespoon of the Italian seasoning, and a pinch of salt. Stir together well.
In the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish, spread 1/2 of the Marinara Sauce. Place 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce. Spread the turkey and spinach mixture even over the noodles. Pour a small amount of sauce on the top. Sprinkle with 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of 3 lasagna noodles, and spread the ricotta mixture over them; sprinkle with 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Add the final layer of 3 lasagna noodles. Pour the remaining sauce on top and allow the sauce to seep through the layers. Sprinkle on the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella cheese and top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 25 minutes more, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
- makes 1 quart -
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and oregano, and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the basil and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 1 minute.
Add the diced tomatoes, including the liquid in the can, and sugar. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. (You may also transfer the contents of the pan to a traditional blender to do this, but be careful because the sauce will be hot.) Return the sauce to the heat, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add salt and pepper, and stir well.
Serve the sauce immediately over gluten-free pasta or, once cooled, store in an airtight container. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can freeze the sauce for up to 3 months.