Remember that promise to return to a normal posting schedule this week? Yeah, I haven’t quite made it. I don’t know if it’s the jet lag, the humidity, or the pile of laundry tumbling from our suitcases, but something sure is dragging me down. Our fridge is nearly empty and my motivation to bake or write or edit photos is somewhere close to my desire to do all that laundry. If you need a reference, that’s LOW. Like 2 on a scale of 1-10.
Luckily, I made enough food and took enough photos during vacation to get me through this post-vacay slump. I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse into our crazy family, the beautiful state of California, and these delicious Italian Sausage Pesto Lasagna Rolls. And don’t you worry about me. I’ll be back in the kitchen making messes, whisking flour, and sampling tasty treats in no time.
Stunning, right? This was my very first trip to California and the farthest west I’ve ever traveled. Considering I grew up in a town named for its flatness (really, Plain City?), it was incredible to be surrounded by rolling mountains painted in hughes of green and gray and blue. We stayed in a little town called Truckee which is located on Lake Donner, about an hour from Lake Tahoe. (If you ever want to be really depressed, look up the story of the Donner party. Suffice it to say, some brave pioneers got a little more than they bargained for. Note: this is probably not bed time reading.)
…is the Mr’s. family, but I gladly claim them as my own. That’s his parents, two sisters, their husbands, and our newest addition, The Nephew. How could you not have a good time when you spend a week with these people? So. much. fun.
Speaking of The Nephew, I’m pretty sure he’s a budding foodie. He loves chocolate covered Oreos (who doesn’t?)
And corn on the cob. (That is some good taste!)
He is also quite enthusiastic about Yayos (Cheerios) and Bawk-Bawk (Chicken). In the future, if you see 2 cups shredded bawk bawk in the ingredients list, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
We did some pretty awesome things on this trip.
Swam in a deep blue, crystal clear, ice cold lake.
I know it doesn’t look like I’m freezing here, but believe me, I am. (Side note: when are they going to come up with photo editing software that gives you a tan???)
Flew in a hot air balloon…that took off from a boat!
And jet skied for the very first time.
…is where the real magic happened.
My favorite memories of the trip were made right there around that giant dining room table. (I know, you’re shocked right?) Each night a different family member was in charge of making dinner, and each night the table was graced with something delicious. We had lemony pasta, creamy pork chops, spicy lasagna, and beer soaked brats. But it was more than the food that made these evenings so scrumptious. It was the prayer of thanks that started each meal, the hands clasped together around the table. It was the laughter, the getting to know yous, and the time and heart that went into each plate. We truly feasted around that table, leaving with bellies and hearts full, satisfied by great food and even better company.
Our contribution to the family table were these Italian Sausage Pesto Lasagna Rolls. I don’t know why the thought of making actual lasagna is so unappealing to me. I’ve made stove top lasagna more times than I can count, and it’s always one of our favorite meals. And these lasagna rolls certainly didn’t disappoint. Slightly spicy from the sausage, herby from the pesto, and creamy/melty from three different cheeses, these are more than enough to curb a craving for lasagna Plus, they are much easier (and prettier) to serve than traditional lasagna. With the luck we’re having making lasagna knock offs, I don’t know if I’ll ever need to make the real thing!
The rolls are not difficult to make but they do take some time to prepare the noodles, filling, and bechamel sauce. Assembly is fairly simple, and you could definitely make this dish ahead, refrigerate, then just pop it in the oven when you’re ready. I hope you’ll forgive the poor quality of this photo, but when you have 8 hungry people who’ve been smelling cheese and sausage wafting from the oven for an hour, you don’t waste a lot of time taking pictures.
I hope these will be as much of a hit around your family dinner table as they were mine!
Pesto Sausage Lasagna Rolls
Recipe by Bake.Eat.Repeat
For the bechamel sauce:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 teaspoons flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the rolls:
16 lasagna noodles
1 lb. ground italian sausage
1/2 lb. ground beef
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons basil pesto
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (16 oz) jarred spaghetti or marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until tender, but still somewhat firm. Using tongs, remove noodles from water and place in a single layer on a sheet of parchment paper.
2. For the filling place sausage and ground beef in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until browned and no pink remains. Remove from heat and stir in ricotta, Parmesan cheese, eggs, pesto, salt, and pepper.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. To make the bechamel sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour and whisk continually until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add milk and continue to whisk until mixture becomes glossy and thick. Remove from heat and whisk in salt and pepper. Pour mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.
3. To make the rolls, place about 3 hefty spoonfuls of filling over the length of the lasagna noodle, leaving about an inch of space free on one end. Starting on the fuller end, begin rolling the noodle tightly over the filling. Place finished roll seam side down over the bechamel sauce. Repeat with remaining rolls, laying them side by side in 4 rows of 4.
4. If preparing in advance, cover the dish with saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake. When ready to bake, pour jar of sauce over the top of the rolls and sprinkle with mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake another 15-20 minutes or until mozzarella is browned and noodles are hot clear through. Dish will take slightly longer to bake through if coming from the refrigerator.