Chicken Florentine Lasagna

Mar 13th
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I haven’t made a lasagna in a long time. Why? Because it’s the ultimate time suck. If you just want a basic filling, jarred sauce, shredded bagged cheese, and no bake noodles then the time commitment ain’t no thang – but who wants that?
I wanted to make a delicious, prep ahead meal to serve for company. Make ahead was critical as Saturdays have become “work days” now that weekdays are actual work days. I also like to relax occasionally. The weather was supposed to be near 60 and the park was calling our names. Would you believe I went to the park from 4-6 on Saturday even though 8 people were due at 7pm? My idea was for a “chicken parm” lasagna but because I added spinach and the chicken wasn’t breaded, that didn’t seem quite right. Someone suggested chicken Florentine lasagna and I was surprised that I didn’t know exactly what chicken Florentine even was! Apparently it’s pasta, cream sauce, spinach, and chicken. Sounds about right.
Here’s how I did it. Alfredo sauce requires few ingredients, just a bit of time, and can be stored up to three days ahead. Alfredo Thursday night. Chicken would be tender and easy to shred if I crock-potted it – plus by slow cooking it in the tomato sauce my sauce would sweeten to perfection. By Saturday morning the meal just required a basic filling and assembly.
The best thing about a lasagna is that it’s essentially your whole meal, all in one! Grain, veggie, dairy, meat (and if you count a tomato as a fruit you’ve even got that!). Bread and salad is all it takes to complete your elegant meal! OK, not exactly elegant, but definitely tasty.
Incidentally I made the bread – recipe to come – but it was ALSO make ahead, a friend brought a salad, and my dessert was a crock pot chocolate pudding cake. While it took some planning for sure, two hours at the park on a newbie spring Saturday makes it so worth it!
Lastly – this recipe is involved and has lots of ingredients. If you want to buy Alfredo sauce, go for it! I’m sure it will be delicious nonetheless. That being said, I had a bit of leftover Alfredo and I tossed it with veggies for my daughter – she put them away like nobody’s business! Alfredo. is. awesome.

Chicken Florentine Lasagna 

Serves 10-12

Alfredo Sauce

5 tbsp. butter

2 shallots or 1 small onion, minced

5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1/4 c. all purpose flour

4 c. 2% milk

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

Chicken

1 (32 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 can whole tomatoes (NOT drained)

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 onion, peeled and halved

16 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Filling

16 oz. ricotta cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 egg

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

1 c. grated mozzarella

For Assembly

12 no bake lasagna noodles

2 c. grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 c. finely chopped fresh basil

1. (Up to 3 days ahead, or day of). To make Alfredo sauce, heat butter in saucepan over medium high heat until melted and foamy. Add onion and garlic and saute until fragrant and onions are softened, 3-5 minutes.

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2. Add flour and stir to combine. Let cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally (but don’t let it get brown).

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3. Add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking well until combined before adding more.

4. When all the milk has been added, add bay leaf and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for five minutes or until thickened.

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5. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and cheese. Stir to combine. Set aside or refrigerate in an airtight container. Definitely use pre-grated cheese here – doesn’t make a difference flavor-wise and scooping it out of the container with a baby on the hip made me haaapppyyyy.

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If storing to make in a few days, press plastic wrap right against the surface and then place the lid on the container. Store in fridge.

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6. (Up to 2 days ahead, or morning of). To make chicken, combine all “Chicken” ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low for 8 hours. When finished, use two forks to shred the meat and crush any tomatoes still intact. Add spinach and stir to combine. Set aside if using immediately or refrigerate in an air tight container.

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7. To make filling, mix ricotta, salt, pepper, egg, and cheese in a mixing bowl until combined.

8. (Up to 24 hours ahead). Fill a 9×13 inch baking pan with hot water and spread lasagna noodles in the water, swishing occasionally to avoid sticking. After five minutes, spread noodles out to dry on a clean kitchen towel and drain water from baking pan.

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9. Spoon 1/2 cup of Alfredo sauce into a 9 x 13 baking pan and spread to cover the bottom. Layer 3 noodles over top. Spread a layer of ricotta filling on top of noodles.

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10. Spread a chicken layer next and top with a large handful of mozzarella cheese.

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11. Continue with this pattern until noodles are finished – top the last layer of noodles with the last of the chicken mixture and a coating of the remaining mozzarella cheese. Spray a foil sheet with nonstick spray and place over assembled lasagna. Refrigerate if using within 24 hours.

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12. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling.

13. Remove foil and switch oven to broil. Broil, watching carefully, until cheese is golden and bubbly. Broil means that all of the oven’s heat is coming from the top of the oven. To broil, the oven rack must be at the highest position, and the door must be ajar. Always “babysit” your food when it’s under the broiler as it goes from not cooked to overcooked REALLY quickly. 

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14. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil. Let sit for 10 minutes and the slice into squares and serve.

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Technically you could freeze lasagna before baking as well as once it’s baked. I prefer to bake and freeze. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and the a double sheet of foil. To reheat, cook at 350 for at least 45 minutes (lasagna takes FOREVER to reheat).