Apple Cheddar Lasagna with Spinach & Ricotta

Apple Cheddar Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta
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Lasagna is one of those universally loved comfort foods. The classic Bolognese and bechamel pasta tower is a culinary force to be reckoned with. But I chose to reckon, I chose to play, and I chose to put apples in this classic. Some would call today’s Apple Cheddar Lasagna quirky, others would call it blasphemy, but I just call it a salty/sweet delight. So what are you looking at? Well, this lasagna features a mushroom and cheddar bechamel, shingles of Ontario-grown Honeycrisp apples, spinach mixed with ricotta, and a gooey melted mozzarella top. This lasagna is as delicious as it is offbeat. So let’s dig in.

This post was sponsored by Ontario Apple Growers. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

Slicing the cremini mushrooms for the bechamel

Growing up, my dad would always place a slab of cheddar on top of his apple pie. I wrinkled my nose at this preference for the longest time until I actually tried it. It may seem like an exaggeration but I remember this moment as a cosmic shift. It jump-started my life-long love affair with salty/sweet combos. A flavor profile that is featured over and over again on this blog. So when the Ontario Apple Growers approached me to develop a recipe featuring one of the many varieties grown in this fine province, this apple pie experience was the first thing that leaped to mind.

Streaming in the milk to form the Cheddar Mushroom Bechamel
Mushroom cheddar bechamel ready to be stirred

Now, obviously, Ontario Apple Growers have seen their fair share of pies, so I wasn’t about to go that route. But I did want to throw apple and cheddar together once again. Then it struck me, lasagna is basically a pasta pie, so why not make an apple lasagna held together by a cheddar-spiked bechamel. It was just crazy enough to work. So with my hair-brained scheme in place, I set about selecting the perfect apple.

Par-boiling the lasagna noodles

Honeycrisp apples are my favorite eating apple. They’re a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold and the result is sweet, crisp, and usually huge. Basically, exactly what I look for in an apple. I don’t tend to do much cooking or baking with them. Mostly because I eat them too fast. But I’m usually a Cortland or a McIntosh girl when it comes to pie. But the more I thought about it, the more the Honeycrisp made sense. They’re sweet, which provides the perfect contrast when you’re playing with sharp and savory flavors like mushroom and cheddar. And they’re crisp and hold their shape, exactly what you want from an apple when you’re planning on sticking them between layers of cheese and pasta. An apple has to hold its’ own in a lasagna – there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Spinach ricotta mixture ready to be stirred

When making apple pie, I like my apples to break down a little. That’s probably why I tend to choose varieties that lend themselves well to apple sauce. But when it comes to savory cooking, I want my apples to maintain their apple-ness. That’s totally a word, by the way. The Honeycrisp in this lasagna maintains its bite, its shape, and its sweetness. They are their own layer, as much as the spinach ricotta mixture is its own layer.

Adding the apple slices to the lasagna

Now, I know what you’re thinking, won’t the apple make the lasagna runny? Well, yes and no. The apples do leach off a fair amount of liquid, but this recipe compensates for that with an ultra-thick bechamel. I like to think of it as a strong bechamel. It’s still saucy, don’t get me wrong, it’s just slightly thicker than the one you would want to grace your mac and cheese. So as the apples cook and leech off a little of their liquid, it intermingles with the bechamel to create a sweeter, saucier version of its former self. The most important thing you can do to spare yourself a soggy lasagna, and this really, goes for any lasagna, is to let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing into it. Your slices are far more likely to emerge from the pan intact if you let that lasagna cool slightly.

Apple Cheddar Lasagna with Spinach and ricotta

The other components of this Apple Cheddar Lasagna are far more pedestrian. A spinach fleck ricotta layer, and a melty mozzarella lid – all the greatest lasagna hits are here. But we, of course, have to end on a strange note. And what better way to do that than to garnish our lasagna apple pie with fresh slices of Ontario-grown Honeycrisp apples topped with crushed red pepper flakes, fresh sage leaves, and mustard microgreens for a little extra sharpness. It just makes good sense to garnish raw when working with a renowned eating apple.

Apple Cheddar Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta

So that’s pretty much everything you know about this Apple Cheddar Lasagna made with Ontario-grown Honeycrisp apples. Make it for the people you like, make it for the people you love, but mostly make it for the people who have a broad definition of the word “lasagna”.

Enjoy!

Apple Cheddar Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta

Apple Cheddar Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta

This Apple Cheddar Lasagna features a rich mushroom cheddar bechamel, crisp thinly sliced Honeycrisp apples, and a creamy spinach-fleck ricotta layer served with a gooey melted mozzarella lid.
Prep Time 35 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Servings 10

Equipment

  • 1 9×13 casserole dish
  • 1 Large, deep skillet
  • 1 large stock pot
  • 2 Large Baking Sheets
  • 2 large lint-free tea towels

Ingredients
  

Mushroom Cheddar Bechamel

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 454g (1lb) cremini mushrooms sliced
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 200g (7oz) white cheddar shredded
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard heaping

Spinach Ricotta

  • 142g (5oz) baby spinach
  • 2 (475g, 17oz) tubs full-fat ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Apple Cheddar Lasagna

  • 500g (17.5oz) dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 batch Mushroom Cheddar Bechamel see above
  • 4 Ontario-grown Honeycrisp apples ** thinly sliced, divided
  • 1 batch Spinach Ricotta see above
  • 250g (9oz) mozzarella shredded
  • fresh sage leaves for sprinkling
  • mustard microgreens for sprinkling

Instructions
 

For the Mushroom Cheddar Bechamel **

  • Pour the olive oil into a large deep skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until just translucent. Stir in the garlic and sauté for a minute more. Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and softened. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet using a slotted spoon. Set them aside.
    1 tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion, 2 cloves garlic, 454g (1lb) cremini mushrooms
  • Melt the butter in the skillet. Whisk in the flour to form a roux. While whisking constantly, slowly stream in the milk. Once the milk is integrated bring the mixture up to the barest simmer before reducing the heat to low. Simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. 
    4 tbsp unsalted butter, 5 tbsp all-purpose flour, 4 cups whole milk
  • Return the mushrooms to the skillet and add the cheddar and mustard. Stir until the cheese melts and is fully integrated. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Take the béchamel off of the heat and set it aside.
    200g (7oz) white cheddar, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

For Spinach Ricotta

  • Bring a small pot of water up to a boil and add the spinach. Cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth and drain the spinach. Rinse with cold water. Form the cheesecloth into a bundle and squeeze out any excess moisture.
    142g (5oz) baby spinach
  • Transfer the spinach to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
    2 (475g, 17oz) tubs full-fat ricotta, 2 large eggs, 2 cloves garlic, 1½ tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

For the Lasagna

  • When you’re ready to assemble the lasagna, preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 9×13” pan with butter and set it aside.
  • Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Liberally salt the water and add your lasagna noodles. Line two large baking sheets with lint-free tea towels and keep them close. Cook the noodles until they are about halfway done. They should be floppy but still tough in the center. Transfer the noodles to the baking sheets and set them aside. ***
    500g (17.5oz) dried lasagna noodles
  • Spoon a small amount of the béchamel into the prepared casserole dish and spread it to form a thin, even layer. Arrange a layer of the par-cooked noodles on top. Pour and spread a third of the remaining béchamel on top of the noodles and cover it with apple slices. Make sure the slices are dispersed evenly and only slightly overlap. 
    1 batch Mushroom Cheddar Bechamel, 4 Ontario-grown Honeycrisp apples **
  • On top of the apples place another layer of noodles followed by the spinach ricotta mixture. Add another layer of noodles, followed by half of the remaining béchamel and another layer of apples. Top the apples with another layer of noodles and pour the remaining béchamel on top. Smooth the béchamel with the back of a spoon and sprinkle with the mozzarella. ****
    1 batch Spinach Ricotta, 250g (9oz) mozzarella
  • Bake the lasagna for 20 minutes covered and for an additional 20 minutes uncovered. When the cheese is golden and bubbly, take the lasagna out of the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Top with any remaining apple slices, sage, and mustard microgreens. Slice and serve.
    fresh sage leaves, mustard microgreens

Notes

** When slicing the apples, reserve one apple for the garnish. Place those apple slices in a bowl of cold water with some lemon juice in it. When you’re ready to garnish your lasagna, pat the apples dry with a paper towel before placing them on top of the lasagna. 
*** You can make both the bechamel and the spinach ricotta up to a day in advance. 
**** You can par-cook your noodles a few hours in advance. 
***** At this point, you can cover and store the lasagna overnight in the fridge prior to baking.
Keyword apples, cheddar, mozzarella, Pasta, ricotta, spinach

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