Most folks go on vacation to get away from cooking. Not me.
When we pack up the family roadster in the summertime and head out for our week at the beach, the car contains at least one of my preferred cooking vessels and my favorite knives. We vacation with folks I love whom I don’t get to see very often – cooking a couple of meals for the gang lets me take care of some of my favorite people. It’s taken me a couple of years to find the balance between preparing too much food, planning too many meals and spending too much time in the kitchen (even in my bathing suit with a wine cooler at my side, it does get a little old. And hot.)
This was the first year I didn’t make a couple of my beach “signature” dishes – pans of lasagna. That’s good crowd food – easy to prepare in advance, makes great leftovers and kid-friendly. I usually make it two ways – the traditional, with meat-laden tomato sauce, béchamel and ricotta; and a change up with chicken, white sauce, and spinach.
I was asked by every person that crossed the threshold of our house if we were going to have lasagna night – and to a person, each face took on a look of sadness when I said no. While the traditional lasagna is good, they were all hoping that the chicken version was hiding in the fridge, waiting for some oven time.
It’s not a complicated recipe. And it uses both my favorite time saving ingredient – the deli roasted chicken – and one of my least favorite – cream of anything soup. But it’s worth it. Try it. You’ll see.
FYI: The spinach can be left out if you’ve got picky eaters. Then it would be Chicken Alfredo Lasagna. But I digress…
Chicken Florentine Lasagna
8 ounce pkg lasagne noodles
3 cups half-and-half
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup butter
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion
4 cloves garlic
1 roasted chicken, skinned, deboned and shredded
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 package frozen spinach, thawed
3 cups italian blend cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook lasagne noodles for 8-10 minutes. Do not overcook.
In saucepan over low heat, mix half & half, soup, Parmesan and butter. Simmer until well blended, stirring often.
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until tender; mix in chicken and cook until heated through.
Lightly coat bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish with enough cream sauce to coat. Layer 1/3 lasagna noodles, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 spinach, 1/2 chicken mixture and 1 cup mozzarella. Top with 1/2 cream sauce then repeat layers. Place remaining noodles on top. Spread with rest of sauce.
Bake one hour until brown and bubbly. Top with rest of mozzarella and finish baking until cheese melted and lightly browned.