Sure, at first glance, it may just look like a big dish of tender pasta, creamy white sauce, and melted cheese, but it’s really so much more than that.
Well, actually, that’s pretty much exactly what it is. But there’s also shredded chicken and spinach tucked between each rolled noodle, which both gives it a slight illusion of healthiness (hey, there’s green in there!) and also makes it even more delicious. Okay, maybe it’s not tricking anyone into believing it’s healthy, but a girl can dream, right?
For this recipe, I use fresh spinach and shredded leftover (or rotisserie) chicken in the filling, but you can easy switch it up and use frozen spinach, make a vegetarian version, or sub in other meats like ground sausage or turkey. And don’t worry if your roll-ups are a little messy, with some ricotta peeking out at the seams, or just a bit uneven. They’re going to be blanketed in golden-brown cheese in no time, and no one will be the wiser. I will keep your messy roll-up secret if you keep mine.
The point of rolling the lasagna noodles isn’t to make them look perfect (although I do have to say that I think they look nicer beneath that cheesy white sauce than a traditional, flat, lasagna) but it’s actually just to make serving simpler. Rolling the noodles prevents the fillings from squeezing out every time you try to cut a slice. We’ve all witnessed a lasagna being absolutely wrecked as it was served– falling apart, ricotta oozing out into the dish, and so on. No more, I say! Intact lasagna portions for all.
The real star here is the cheesy white sauce, which is loaded up with onion, garlic, mozzarella, and parmesan, and then sprinkled with more cheese to top… because we don’t take cheese lightly around here. I could eat that stuff by the spoonful all by itself. In fact, I have.
I spread half of the white sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, which helps keep the roll-ups firmly in place. Then I pour the rest over top and let the oven work its magic.
Once it gets those brown edges and forms a completely melted layer of cheese on top, the lasagna is ready to be served.
These White Chicken Lasagna Roll Ups are received with open-arms and open mouths at my house, as an almost alfredo-y switch-up from the original red lasagna. The rolled-up variation is easier to serve in individual portions, although everyone always winds up going back for seconds. Who could resist?
- 9 lasagna noodles
- 1 (14 oz) package fresh baby spinach
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup milk
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves, plus more to top
- 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- Place the lasagna noodles in a casserole dish, stacking them in alternating directions. Pour boiling water over the noodles and let them soak in the hot water until softened, pliable, but not sticky, about 20 minutes, and then drain.
- While the noodles soak, place the spinach in a large pot over medium heat. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover, toss the spinach, and cover again. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2-3 more minutes. Transfer the spinach to a colander and let cool.
- Place the pot back on the heat and add melt the butter in it. Add in the onion and garlic and saute until softened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Mix in the flour and stir together until the mixture begins to brown and thicken. Slowly stir in the chicken broth and milk.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to stir, gently scraping the bottom to prevent the flour mixture from burning onto the pot. Once thickened and smooth, reduce the heat to low. Mix in 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and mix in the chopped basil.
- Keep the mixture warm over low heat and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Press the excess water out of the wilted spinach, making sure to get as much out as possible. Place the spinach in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add in the shredded chicken, ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. Mix well to combine.
- Spread the chicken and cheese filling in an even layer over each noodle, and then roll up the noodles to enclose the filling.
- Spoon half of the white sauce into the bottom of a square baking dish. Press the lasagna rolls, one at a time, into the white sauce. I like to put mine in so that the swirled side is facing upward, but you can also place them seam-side down if you’d prefer.
- Once all of the rolls are arranged in the baking dish, spoon the remaining white sauce on top. Cover with the remaining cheese.
- Bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Top with fresh basil and serve warm.