In the battle between white sauce lasagna and red sauce lasagna, I am a firm believer in calling it a tie. Why should anyone have to choose between two so incredible dishes that are sure to please almost anyone? One of my favorite menus for a casual dinner gathering is making one of each. There’s plenty of food to please a crowd, and everyone can have a bit of each. They’re both so wonderful in their own ways, but truth be told, I have a soft spot in my heart for this Spinach and Chicken White Lasagna. I have requested it for countless birthday meals, and now that I’m old and I make my own birthday meals, I still love it.
This version is inspired by a recipe from a school cookbook that my Mom had while I was growing up. Over the years I have made a few changes to suit my tastes and preferences, but overall it is still that familiar, creamy, rich white lasagna that tastes like home and made me enjoy spinach for the first time.
This is truly a from-scratch recipe (aside from the noodles, although I do love homemade pasta).
The sauce is from scratch, but is not difficult to prepare. If you’ve never made your own cream sauces before, please do give it a try. It is one of the best kitchen skills you can have for whipping up an easy meal on the fly, plus you get to control everything that goes into it…unlike the sauces from a jar.
The chicken stock is also homemade, but you can substitute good quality store-bought if you would like. Making your own homemade chicken stock is not at all difficult, and makes great use of the scraps when cooking the bone-in chicken breasts for this recipe. Bone-in chicken breasts are much tastier, juicier, and less expensive than the boneless skinless chicken breasts at the store. It’s a win-win.
I like to use small-curd cottage cheese in this recipe, but I prefer the texture after it is pulsed in a food processor so it is smooth. That is a completely optional step. You could also substitute ricotta instead of the cottage cheese, but I like the subtle tang that the cottage cheese brings.
Please do not use nonfat dairy products in this recipe. You’ll thank me later when your sauce is not weird, watery, and running all over the place. This is not the recipe to try and do a lightened-up version. The quality, texture, and flavor will suffer greatly.
To Make Your Own Chicken Stock for this recipe:
The day before (or morning of) serving the lasagna-
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, foil, or a Silpat baking liner.
Rub 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast in oven until cooked through (firm to the touch, no pink remains, and center reaches 165 degrees F.)
Let rest a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard skin. Remove the meat from the bones. Cover and refrigerate the breast meat until ready to use in the lasagna.
Add all bones and scraps of meat to a large pot. Toss in an onion, a couple of carrots, a stalk or two of celery, a bay leaf, and some salt and pepper. Add about 6-8 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and continue simmering until liquid has reduced by nearly half. You will need about 2-3 cups of finished broth. Pour through a strainer and discard vegetables and bones.
Set stock aside to use in the sauce. (Leftover stock freezes really well. I make some every time I roast chicken breasts and then just freeze it for later use.)