Pesto has long been a favorite Italian sauce. It’s full of rich flavor, vibrant color, and the silky aftertaste of high quality olive oil. It’s also one of the harder sauces to make at home since it requires a lot of basil and a portion of pine nuts- not the easiest nut to find in the grocery store. To make things simple for these pesto lasagna rolls we’re using pre-made pesto from the store. This key ingredient is not only mixed with ricotta and spinach for the filling, but it’s also mixed with a lovely cream sauce topping, too.
For this recipe we won’t be layering the noodles as is traditional for lasagna. But, we will be making a béchamel sauce- which is a key feature of traditional layered lasagnas. Modern tomato-based recipes often skip this step, but it adds a lot of creamy flavor to the mix.
To make the rolls you’ll need to prepare the noodles to al dente and then allow them to cool and dry on a cooling rack or a some sheet pans. Do this in a single layer so that they don’t stick together.
Then place a bit of the filling on the end of each noodle and roll them up, placing them seam-side down in the baking dish. At this stage add in some crushed red pepper flakes if you like.
Then cover with the sauce and some cheese and bake until golden brown on top. Doing it this way means that none of the noodles get scorched like so often happens with layered lasagna.
These pesto rolls are so savory, yet still feel fresh thanks to the spinach and pesto. This is an easy, yet impressive, dish that will have you wondering why pesto lasagna isn’t served at every Italian restaurant.
Pesto Lasagna Rolls
25m prep time
45m cook time
- 16 lasagna noodles
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta
- 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, divided
- 1 cup pesto, divided
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Cook noodles to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, then lay in a single layer on baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
- Melt butter over medium heat then add flour. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Whisk in milk, salt, and pepper. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until a thin gravy is formed. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine ricotta, spinach, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, 1/2 cup of parmesan, 1/2 cup pesto, salt, and pepper. Stir remaining pesto into cooled béchamel sauce.
- Lay out noodles on flat surface and then spoon 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture onto one end of noodle and roll noodle up.
- Use oil to grease a 9x13 baking dish. Pour 1/4 cup of pesto bechamel into baking dish. Place rolls on top of sauce, seam side down, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Pour remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and cover with foil. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe adapted from Food Network.