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Eric Akis: Ravioli makes a lasagna-like casserole

In this recipe, ravioli are layered and baked in lasagna-like fashion with sauce, cheese and spinach.
Three-Cheese Ravioli Lasagna Ravioli, layered in a lasagna-like casserole, with cheese, spinach and sauce. ERIC AKIS

Note to readers: This recipe has been updated to include instructions on when to add the spinach. Thank you everyone who pointed out the omission!

I was shopping for dinner the other day, felt like having pasta that evening, saw a package of fresh ravioli, thought that would work and bought it.

When I got home, though, I wished I had chosen lasagna noodles instead. Because the other ingredients I purchased to dress up that ravioli, sauce, cheeses and spinach, would have worked perfectly with them.

That’s when I made the tasty decision to cook, layer and bake those ravioli into a lasagna-like casserole. To make it, my 300-gram package of fresh ravioli were cooked, drained and cooled. I then made three layers of that ravioli in an eight-inch square baking dish. In between those ravioli were passata di pomodoro (strained tomatoes), cooked, chopped spinach and three types of cheese - ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan.

When baked, I ended up with a hearty, filling and satisfying dish of pasta I served with garlic bread and a green salad.

Three-Cheese Ravioli Lasagna

In this recipe, ravioli are layered and baked in lasagna-like fashion with sauce, cheese and spinach.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: about 45 to 50 minutes

Makes: three to four servings

1 (24 ounce/680 mL) jar passata di pomodoro with basil (see Note 2)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp garlic powder, or 1 large garlic clove, minced

• pinch red pepper flakes

1 (142-gram/5-ounce) tub fresh baby spinach

1 (300-gram) package fresh ravioli (see Note 1)

• olive oil

1 1/2 to 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not the dried powdered type)

1/2 to 2/3 cup ricotta cheese (see Note 3)

• chopped fresh parsley, to taste (optional)

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

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

Bring a very large pot of lightly salted water to a boil to cook the ravioli. Brush a large non-stick baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Set out a large bowl of iced cold water.

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

To make the ravioli lasagna, preheat oven to 375 F. Spread 3/4 cup of the passata mixture into the bottom of an eight-inch square baking dish. Top the passata with third of the cooked ravioli, setting them in a single layer. Drizzle and top those ravioli with 3/4 cup of the remaining passata mixture, third of the mozzarella cheese, third of the Parmesan cheese and half of the ricotta and spinach, setting the latter two items on in small spoonfuls, setting the latter two items on in small spoonfuls.

Set on half of the remaining ravioli, setting them in a single layer. Drizzle and top those ravioli with 3/4 cup of the remaining passata mixture, half of the remaining mozzarella cheese, half of the remaining Parmesan cheese and the remaining ricotta and spinach.

Set on the remaining ravioli in a single layer. Drizzle and top those ravioli with the remaining passata mixture and the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

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

Note 1: I used Olivieri brand ravioli when testing this recipe. It’s sold at most grocery stores. The 300-gram package I bought contained 38 ravioli. When making my three layers of that ravioli in the lasagna, two layers had 13 ravioli, the other 12. I used spinach and ricotta ravioli, but any other type, such as those filled with beef or mushrooms, will also work in the recipe.

Note 2: Passata di pomodoro, also called strained tomatoes, is sold in tall bottles in the pasta sauce aisle of supermarkets. The type I bought was favoured with basil.

Note 3: The leftover ricotta cheese you have in the tub after using some in this recipe could be frozen, to thaw and use at another time.

Eric’s options: You could grate the cheeses, cook, cool, drain and chop the spinach, and cook, cool and set the ravioli on the baking sheet many hours before assembling the lasagna. Keep all covered and refrigerated until needed.

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

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