Gluten-Free Brown Rice Lasagna With Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Salata

Gluten-free brown rice lasagna with ricotta salata, spinach, & Italian sausage

Gluten-free brown rice lasagna with ricotta salata, spinach, & Italian sausage

 

Despite the fuzzy picture (my camera’s been on the fritz lately), this is the most exciting entree to come out of my kitchen in years.  I had not eaten lasagna since I went gluten-free and dairy-free four years ago.  However, I recently discovered ricotta salata, a sheep’s milk ricotta that I can tolerate on occasion.  I’ve used it on salads and in pasta dishes but always pined, “if only they made brown rice lasagna noodles.”  I had looked in many stores with no luck, so I asummed they didn’t exist.  But this weekend I was visiting my favorite gluten-free bakery, Mariposa Baking in north Oakland, when I found what I’d been searching for – a package of Tinkyada gluten-free brown rice lasagna noodles.  You can imagine the glee I experienced when I realized I now had all the ingredients to make a traditional lasagna dish that I could digest!  Let me tell you – it was the best meal I’ve eaten in years, and even my husband could barely get out the words “oh my God, honey, this is so GOOD” while he downed several pieces in one sitting.

 

The recipe I used was just a simple, basic lasagna recipe with spinach and Italian sausage, only substituting brown rice noodles and ricotta salata.  But it tasted divine.  I mean, I don’t know if it was because I haven’t had lasagna in so long or if it really was that good, but I was in pasta heaven.  Here’s how I made it:

 

Prepare 9 brown rice lasagna noodles according to package directions.  I used the energy-saving method: boil them for a few minutes and then turn off the heat and let them finish cooking as the water cools (about 20 minutes).  Meanwhile, make the sauce.

 

Basic Meat/Tomato Sauce

 

1 lb. ground Italian sausage

1 28-oz or 2 14-oz cans diced tomato

6 oz. tomato paste

1 small yellow or cippolini onion (now in season)

3-4 cloves garlic

1 tsp dry each or 2 T chopped fresh basil & oregano leaves

1/2 tsp salt

2 T extra virgin olive oil

 

Saute the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes until tender.  Add the Italian sausage and brown.  Add the diced tomato (you can puree for a smoother sauce but this is not necessary) and tomato paste, basil, oregano, and salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, while the pasta is cooking & cooling.  (For a vegetarian dish, you can skip the Italian sausage.)

 

Meanwhile, rinse a large bunch of spinach and saute lightly in olive oil just until reduced.  Or, if you prefer to add other vegetables like carrots or zucchini, you can grate them and set aside.  Or roast some thinly-sliced eggplant.  I cannot eat mushrooms, but if you can, I’m sure they would be delicious as well.  Those are just some ideas.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Now it is time to assemble the lasagna.  Drain the pasta and set aside.  Crumble up about 4-6 oz. sheep’s milk ricotta salata.  Spread a thin layer of olive oil in a 9×13 glass baking dish.  Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom (don’t be alarmed if they break, rice pasta doesn’t hold together as well as wheat pasta, but you can just piece it together and it will be just fine!).  Spoon a layer of tomato sauce on top of the noodles (about 1/3 to 1/2 of the mixture).  Sprinkle with about a third of the ricotta salata, and top with half the spinach or other vegetables.  Layer another 3 lasagna noodles and repeat the process.  Top with the last 3 noodles, any remaining sauce and cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, removing the foil in the final 10 minutes or so to lightly brown.  Cut into squares and serve along with a fresh green salad.  It makes easy leftovers and freezes well.  But beware – you may not be able to stop at one piece!

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