Lasagna Bianca – White Lasagna with Spinach & Matzo crackers

I will admit, a lasagna made with matzo crackers had me a little skeptical but I was proved wrong. It turned out great. Substituting the lasagna noodles with matzo crackers gives it a similar texture and a little different flavor, but in a good way.

Our lasagna bianca just after we pulled it out of the oven.
Our lasagna bianca just after we pulled it out of the oven.

Ingredients

the spinach sauce

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cups frozen spinach, chopped or 1 can of spinach, chopped

The White Sauce

  • 1 container ricotta cheese (32 oz)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Everything Else

  • Matzo crackers, lightly salted
  • 1 lb ground hot Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Make the spinach sauce:

  1. In a large pot, combine the butter and olive oil on medium heat until melted. Add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté until they are translucent and fragrant.
  2. Add the flour and whisk until it is all incorporated. Cook this mixture on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir this béchamel mixture frequently.
  3. Add the 2 1/2 cups of whole milk and whisk until combined. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture has thickened.
  4. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and spinach into the white sauce. Heat this on low. If you are using frozen spinach, heat until the spinach is warm and fully defrosted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Allow to cool before assembling the lasagna.

Make the white sauce

  1. In a separate bowl, add the ricotta cheese, egg, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Whisk this together.

Brown the hot Italian sausage

  1. If you have sausage links, remove the casings.
  2. Heat a pan over medium heat. Once hot, put the sausage in the pan.
  3. Break the sausage apart with a spatula to get it into as many pieces as possible.
  4. Stir occasionally as it browns. Reduce the heat if it’s browning too quickly. This should take 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool before assembling the lasagna.

Assemble the lasagna

  1. Add a thin layer of the spinach sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.
  2. Add a layer of matzo crackers. You can break the crackers as needed to make a full layer.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the matzo cracker layer. Spread this out evenly.
  4. Add a layer of the browned ground Italian sausage.
  5. Sprinkle a think layer of crushed red pepper flakes.
  6. Repeat with additional layers of spinach sauce, matzo crackers, ricotta cheese sauce, sausage, and red pepper flakes.
  7. Once you reach the top of your dish (or run out of ingredients for layers) pour on the 1/2 cup of whole milk across the top, then cover with mozzarella cheese. The milk helps add moisture for the matzo crackers to absorb.
  8. Cover the dish with foil and place it on a baking sheet (in case it flows over). Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
  9. Remove the foil and allow the top to brown for an additional 15 minutes.

Variations

This recipe was inspired by a number of online recipes we found, but mostly by one of my favorite sites, The Spruce Eats. They have some variations that include other vegetables and other cheeses. They also suggest using store bought Alfredo if you’re short on time or use marinara if you want a more traditional red lasagna.

We added the nutmeg to the ricotta sauce and the sausage and red pepper flakes that weren’t in the original recipe. You could make this without the sausage or you can also use other sausages, like a breakfast sausage or even ground beef.

The Big Texan Bourbon & Grapefruit Cocktail

We found a couple versions and had to try it. We didn’t have grapefruit juice but we did have some Fresca, which actually worked really well. Here’s our version for one drink.

The Big Texan Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 oz Bourbon
  • 1 1/2 oz Fresca (or any grapefruit soda)
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 2 drops of bitters
  • ice
  • 1 grapefruit slice (optional)
  • 1 preserved cherry (optional)

Directions

Add the bourbon, Fresca, and basil into a cocktail shaker and then fill the shaker with ice. Shake well and then strain into a cocktail glass with a large ice globe (or 5 ice cubes). Add the lemon juice and two drops of bitters.

You can garnish with a slice of grapefruits and a cherry.

If you have fresh grapefruit juice, you can substitute the Fresca with 1 oz of grapefruit juice and 1/2 oz of simple syrup.

Italian Wedding Soup

We found this recipe a couple of years ago on the back of a box of pasta at the City Market grocery store in Breckenridge, CO. There are a bunch of variations online, but this one is really simple and we use it as the base for our variations.

Options:
• If you make broth from your Thanksgiving Turkey, this is a perfect use for that broth. 
• If you’re using sausage and in a rush, you can slice the sausage into thin slices. It’s not traditional but it gets the same flavor.
• If you’re like us and make large batches of Italian Meatballs, you can use your leftovers in this recipe instead of the sausage. Just cut large meatballs down into 1/2 inch pieces.
• We found a recipe that includes cherry tomatoes. We add those, too, from time to time because we like the extra flavor, even though it’s not traditional.

A picture of a cutting board and ingredients for Italian Wedding Soup.
Preparing Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth (use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage (or your favorite sausage) or Italian meatballs
  • 1 cup Acini de Pepe pasta
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (optional)
  • 3 cups of baby spinach or kale (or a mix of both)
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • Salt & pepper for taste
A picture of Italian Wedding Soup cooking
Italian Wedding Soup

Directions

  1. Prep your vegetables.
    Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute for 4 minutes, of until they are starting to soften. Add the garlic and saute for a couple more minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth and red pepper flakes (optional) and bring it to a boil.
  3. Roll the sausage meat into 1/2 inch meatballs. or cut it into small slices. If you’re using traditional meatballs, cut them into halves or quarters so they are about 1/2 inch.
  4. Add the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 4 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. 
  5. Add the baby spinach or kale, and the acini di pepe pasta and cherry tomatoes (optional) and simmer for 7 more minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Serve up in large bowls. Add the chopped parsley as a garnish on the soup.