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Giada's Essential Italian Dishes: Lasagna Rolls

Everything you need to know to master this elegant take on the classic casserole


Every cuisine has its core recipes, the fundamental dishes and techniques that set it apart from the rest of the world. I'm breaking down my 10 essential Italian dishes, sharing everything you need to know to master them and become a superstar Italian cook.

What It Is: Lasagna might just be the oldest recipe in the Italian repertoire! The layered pasta casserole can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks, who called their version laganon, though that centuries-old dish most likely didn't have many of the lasagna ingredients that we would recognize today. An infinitely flexible dish, there are many different styles of lasagna from different regions of Italy, from the ornate Neapolitan lasagna di carnevale, filled with hand-rolled meatballs, eggs, and sausage, to the hearty northern Italian style from Emilia-Romagna loaded with rich besciamella and ragu sauces. 
Why I Love It: Lasagna is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Who doesn't love cheesy, creamy, carb-y goodness layered in a casserole dish and baked to melty perfection? My lasagna rolls have all the satisfying layers of a traditional lasagna but with a more elegant, less rustic look. They also take the stress out of serving guests, since there's no messy slicing and measuring! Each person gets their own identical, perfectly rolled portion lifted right out of the dish. 
For the filling, I've combined that delicious northern Italian bechamel with some good-for-you greens and chopped prosciutto. Need a vegetarian option for your next dinner party? A no-meat version of this recipe is as easy as can be; just leave out the prosciutto and bump up the amount of parmesan in the filling to add a little more salty, umami goodness. 
How It's Done: Bechamel starts with a roux of butter and flour, with milk slowly whisked in to create a thick, creamy sauce. It's deceptively simple, but all it takes to get it right is steady, continuous whisking from the moment your ingredients hit the pan. Stop moving and you risk ending up with burned, bitter spots or lumps. Before mixing up the filling, make sure you really wring out your thawed spinach in a clean dish towel to get out every last drop of liquid - any water left in will seep out of the lasagna when it goes into the oven, leaving you with a leaky filling that runs out when it's time to serve. 
To assemble the rolls, lay out your par-boiled lasagna noodles (don't cook them all the way, or they'll get soggy as they bake in the oven) one by one and spread with the spinach filling. As you're rolling them up, use a light touch! Squeeze too hard, and all the filling will squirt out the sides. Arrange the perfectly plump rolls on top of the bechamel in a baking dish, top with marinara and shredded mozzarella, and bake till golden.

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