Recipe: Ravioli makes a lasagna-like casserole

In this recipe, the ravioli is layered and cooked lasagna-style with salsa, cheese, and spinach.

The other day I was shopping for dinner, that night I was craving pasta, I saw a package of fresh ravioli, I thought this would work and I bought it.

When I got home though, I wished I’d gone for the lasagna. Because the other ingredients I bought to season those ravioli, sauce, cheese and spinach, would have worked perfectly with them.

That’s when I made the savory decision to cook, layer, and bake those ravioli in a lasagna-like casserole dish. To make it, my 300 gram pack of fresh ravioli was cooked, drained and cooled. I then made three layers of those ravioli in an eight inch square pan. Among those ravioli were tomato puree (drained tomatoes), cooked and chopped spinach, and three types of cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Parmesan.

Once out of the oven, I ended up with a hearty, filling, and satisfying pasta dish that I served with garlic bread and a green salad.

Ravioli lasagna with three cheeses

In this recipe, the ravioli is layered and cooked lasagna-style with salsa, cheese, and spinach.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: about 45-50 minutes

Does: three or four portions

1 (24 ounce/680 mL) jar tomato puree with basil (see Note 2)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 large minced garlic clove

• pinch the red pepper flakes

1 fresh new spinach (142 grams / 5 oz).

1 package (300 grams) of fresh ravioli (see note 1)

• olive oil

1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (not the dry, powdered kind)

1/2 to 2/3 cup cottage cheese (see note 3)

• chopped fresh parsley, to taste (optional)

Place the tomato puree, oregano, garlic and pepper flakes in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Fill a large pot with 1/2 inch of water and bring to a boil over medium-medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook and stir until wilted, about 90 seconds. Drain the boiling water from the spinach, cool the spinach with cold water and then put it in a sieve. Now press firmly and squeeze as much moisture out of the spinach as possible. Arrange the spinach on a cutting board, chop it coarsely and then put it in a bowl.

Bring a very large pot of lightly salted water to a boil to cook the ravioli. Lightly brush a large nonstick baking pan with olive oil. Prepare a large bowl of ice cold water.

When the water is boiling, add the ravioli and cook, stirring once or twice, until tender, about three to four minutes. Remove pot from heat, then use a slotted spoon to lift the ravioli out of the water and into the bowl of cold water. When the ravioli have cooled in the cold water for a few minutes, drain them well. Now arrange the ravioli on the oiled baking sheet, arranging them in a single layer (see Eric’s options).

To prepare the ravioli lasagna, preheat the oven to 375 F. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce mixture in the bottom of an eight-inch square baking pan. Cover the sauce with a third of the cooked ravioli, placing them in a single layer. Toss and garnish those ravioli with 3/4 cup of the remaining passata mixture, one-third of the mozzarella, one-third of the Parmesan, and half the ricotta, spooning the latter by the spoonful.

Arrange on half of the remaining ravioli, arranging them in a single layer. Toss and top those ravioli with 3/4 cup of the remaining tomato sauce mixture, half the remaining mozzarella, half the remaining Parmesan, and the remaining ricotta.

Arrange over the remaining ravioli in a single layer. Toss and garnish those ravioli with the remaining tomato sauce mixture and the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook the lasagna ravioli for 30 minutes. Now uncover the dish and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, or until hot, bubbly, and delicious. Sprinkle the lasagna ravioli with chopped parsley, if using, and serve.

Note 1: I used Olivieri brand ravioli when trying out this recipe. It is sold in most grocery stores. The 300 gram pack I bought contained 38 ravioli. When I made my three layers of those ravioli in lasagna, two layers had 13 ravioli, the other 12. I used spinach and ricotta ravioli, but any other kind, like those filled with beef or mushrooms, will work in the recipe too.

Note 2: Passata di pomodoro, also called tomato puree, is sold in tall bottles in the pasta sauce aisles of supermarkets. The kind I bought was favored with basil.

Note 3: Leftover ricotta you have in the tub after using it in this recipe may be frozen, to be thawed and used at another time.

Eric’s options: You could grate the cheeses, cook, cool, drain and chop the spinach, and bake, cool, and arrange the ravioli on the baking sheet many hours before assembling the lasagna. Keep everything covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section on Wednesday and Sunday.