Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Made Easy
This is a loosely structured lasagna (more on that later) featuring tender skinless and boneless chicken breasts, fresh spinach, gluten-free pasta and four cheeses: mozzarella, Gruyere, Parmesan and lactose-free cottage cheese.
This Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Bake with Four Cheeses is made with a flavorful white sauce, is easy to prepare, feeds a crowd, freezes well, reheats beautifully – it has it all.
High Carb, Lean Protein
One of my sons, Forrester, was coming home for the weekend for a disc golf tournament. He is a FODMAPer, too. I asked him what he wanted to eat the night before the event. Carbs, he said, lots of carbs. And protein. And pie (more on that later).
Pasta immediately came to mind, maybe lasagna I thought, with lean chicken breasts in a lactose-free béchamel with spinach for nutrition and color. I wanted to use lactose-free cottage cheese in lieu of ricotta.
You might notice that cottage cheese is actually listed as low FODMAP in 4 (Australian) tablespoon (36 g) servings by Monash, however, since we are using a lot of different dairy ingredients in this dish, and we are cognizant of FODMAP stacking, I like to take advantage of lactose-free versions.
Mozzarella is usually the cheese of choice for lasagna for its mild, go-with-everything flavor and meltable texture, so I knew I would use it. The the addition of Gruyere was a last minute add-on. You could use a full pound of mozzarella instead, but the Gruyere adds tons of flavor.
What Makes Lasagna, Lasagna?
We all think of those long, broad, sheet-like noodles (often with ruffled edges) when we hear the word lasagna. Luckily for us FODMAPers, there is rice-based, gluten-free lasagna that suits our dietary needs. Unfortunately, they are very brittle and more than once I have opened a box to find several of them shattered.
You can still make a lasagna casserole and patch the noodles together upon constructing the dish, but it is frustrating. This time, I was all ready to work on our Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Bake when I opened the box and more than half of the lasagna noodles were shattered. I decided to go with it, shatter the rest, cook up these fragments and make a “lasagna bake” as opposed to a classic, neatly layered lasagna.
Hence, this is like a deconstructed lasagna of sorts. You could try the same mount of rotelle, elbows or pasta shells, but I liked the idea of making lemonade out of my figurative lemons.
A Note on Spinach
Many lasagna recipes that I have come across take advantage of frozen spinach – and truth be told, I have used it myself at times for lasagna and casseroles. But I have to tell you, that by the time you defrost it, drain it and manually squeeze excess water out of it, this “convenience” product ends up being quite the to-do!
It is so easy these days to find super-fresh baby spinach in the produce department of supermarkets or at the farmers market. It is usually pre-washed, allowing you to use it right from the package – make sure you buy this kind. For this recipe you simply dump fresh spinach in the boiling pasta water at the end of the pasta cooking, and they cook together. No extra pots, no extra mess. And you get to use a fresh green veggie.
Speaking of tips and tricks and special techniques, you will notice that I use chicken stock, in this case FODY Chicken Soup Base, which we love because it is shelf-stable and there whenever we need it.
First you will add it to a large pot of simmering water to poach the chicken breasts, then we use the same water to cook the pasta. Then, as mentioned above, we add the spinach to the same cooking liquid. In this way, the chicken, pasta and spinach become infused with extra-chicken flavor.
White sauce based lasagnas can be very mild, so I wanted to bolster the flavor. This was one way, as was adding basil and oregano to the béchamel, lots of black pepper and also the Gruyere, with its complex, nutty, sharp flavor.
And About That Pie
Forrester wanted pie, so I was going to make pie. I like nothing more than cooking for my family, and since the kids are out of the house, visits are special. I wanted to make a juicy fruit pie and apple pie was out. We do have our Monash University Certified Low FODMAP Blueberry Pie and immediately a mixed-berry pie came to mind. I created one for my book, Unforgettable Desserts, but that recipe used blackberries and those are off-limits, according to Monash.
Strawberries, however, have no detectable FODMAPs, so I knew I could add them to the blueberries and raspberries. It is an amazing pie! Check out our Berries Pie, which also uses our low FODMAP All-Butter Pie Crust.
For another take on lasagna, try our Hearty Low FODMAP Lasagna packed with sausage and meat!
Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Bake with Four Cheeses
Our low FODMAP, gluten-free Chicken & Spinach Lasagna Bake with Four Cheeses is easy to make, feeds a crowd and can even be frozen ahead of time, making it a great party dish.
- 1 pound (455 g) skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about two large halves)
- 3 tablespoons FODY Chicken Soup Base
- 1/4 cup (½ stick; 57 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) FODY Shallot-Infused Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup (36 g) leeks, green parts only
- 1/2 cup (32 g) scallions, green parts only
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup (73 g) low FODMAP gluten-free flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour
- 3 cups (720 ml) lactose free whole or 2% milk, at room temperature
- 12- ounces (340 g) part-skim mozzarella, shredded
- 4- ounces (115 g) Gruyere, shredded
- 1/2 cup (50 g) grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 10- ounce (280 g) box gluten-free rice flour lasagna noodles, such as Tinkyada
- 5- ounces (140 g) baby spinach (see Tips)
- 1 pound (455 g) lactose-free cottage cheese (see Tips)
- 1/4 cup (8 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Coat the inside of a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray; set aside.
Fill a very large pot with 4 liters of water, bring to a boil and whisk in the FODY Chicken Soup Base. Add chicken breasts, adjust heat to low, and simmer very gently for about 5 minutes. Then turn off heat, leaving chicken breasts in hot liquid. Check the chicken after 10 minutes; the breasts should be just cooked through but still very moist. Remove breasts from liquid and set aside on cutting board to rest. Save cooking liquid in same pot.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add butter and FODY Shallot-Infused Oil. Cook for about a minute or until butter is melted. Add leek and scallion greens and sauté for a few minutes or until softened. Add basil and oregano and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add flour and whisk occasionally, for a minute or two, until flour is beginning to slightly color. Slowly whisk in milk and ½ cup (120 ml) of the chicken-flavored cooking liquid from the pot you set aside. Keep cooking and whisking until you have a thickened, smooth sauce. Stir in mozzarella, Gruyere and ¼ cup (25 g) Parmesan and cook for a minute or two, whisking a couple of times, until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, as desired. Remove about 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of sauce and set it aside, and set aside the skillet with the bulk of the sauce as well.
Go back to pot with reserved liquid and bring back to a boil. Roughly break the lasagna noodles into large pieces and drop into boiling liquid. Cook, stirring often, until very al dente (about 1 or 2 minutes before they are al dente proper) and add spinach to boiling liquid and pasta. Stir spinach into liquid; it should wilt almost immediately. Drain pasta and spinach. Add pasta and spinach to sauce in deep skillet and fold to coat well and combine.
Chop chicken into bite sized pieces; I like small, flat slices rather than cubes.
Scoop about one-third of the pasta mixture into your casserole dish, dollop with half of the cottage cheese and scatter half the chicken on top. Make another layer of pasta, cottage cheese and chicken. Finish off with pasta mixture, then spread top evenly with 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of reserved sauce. Sprinkle reserved ¼ cup (25 g) of Parmesan on top along with parsley.
Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes or until bubbling and the top is golden brown and crusty here and there. Let lasagna sit for a few minutes before serving. Don’t even try to serve neat portions. Just scoop it out and enjoy! We like it with a green salad.
- If baby spinach is packed in your market in 6-ounce (170 g) or 7-ounce (200 g) containers, you can use that amount.
- If your cottage cheese is very wet and soupy, scrape it out into a wire-meshed strainer and let it drain while you are preparing the recipe. Just set it to drain as the very first thing you do.
- To make the lasagna ahead, you can pause right after you have assembled it in the casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or you can freeze it for up to 1 month. Defrost in refrigerator overnight and either way, bring to room temperature before baking.
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more. For a more detailed explanation, please read our article Understanding The Nutrition Panel Within Our Recipes.