Spinach lasagna rolls with white sauce is a sophisticated, but simple alternative to the more widely known Italian-American lasagna with red sauce. This version combines creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheese with baby spinach, and is topped generously with a white béchamel sauce and dusted with a hint of nutmeg.
I love lasagna for so many reasons, but the #1 reason is its versatility. There are just so many ways to make it.
Throughout Italy, different regions have their variations on the dish. For instance, in Liguria, the northern region best known for pesto, lasagne is made with ultra thin, almost translucent noodles, layered with pesto sauce.
The Italian-American version of lasagna layers thicker, curly edged noodles between red sauce, ricotta, and ground meat. This is the version I grew up eating. This was almost always a special occasion meal served on holidays such as Easter, and Thanksgiving.
But the original version of lasagne was actually made with a white béchamel sauce, much like the one I use on these spinach lasagna rolls.
What is béchamel?
Béchamel is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, which I find ironic, considering most food historians agree that it originated in Italy, and was known as besciamella.
Béchamel, or white sauce, starts with a roux, which is a combination of flour and butter and is finished with milk.
The béchamel I use in this recipe also contains a hint of nutmeg, which I think pairs especially well with spinach.
How to make spinach lasagna rolls with creamy white sauce
- In a pot of salted water, cook the lasagne to very al dente and remove. Immediately place in an ice bath, or run under cold water to stop the cooking. Lay the cooled sheets down on parchment paper, or clean kitchen towels.
- In a pan, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-low heat. Once the onion is soft, add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes until fragrant.
- Run the spinach under cold water to clean, and place in the pan with the onions and garlic to steam. Cover it and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes until wilted. Remove the spinach and place it in a wire mesh strainer. When cool enough to touch, press the spinach into the strainer to remove as much water as possible.
- On a cutting board, chop the spinach mixture and add it to a large bowl.
- To the spinach, add ricotta cheese, ⅔'s of the grated mozzarella, grated parmesan, and salt. Now is a good time to taste test to see if any more salt is needed. Once you're satisfied with the taste, add 2 beaten eggs and mix them with the ricotta and spinach. Set aside.
- To begin the béchamel, heat butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the flour a little bit at a time, whisking for 2-3 minutes to incorporate all the flour into the butter.
- Raise the heat to medium-high and slowly add the milk into the pan. Continue whisking to remove any lumps.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce heat back to medium-low. The white sauce will take 7-10 minutes to thicken. Once it coats the back of a spoon, turn off the heat, and add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste test and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Place a thin layer of the white sauce on the bottom of a 10x15 or larger baking pan. You might need two pans. Your very al dente lasagna sheets should be ready for you to begin prepping.
- Spoon the spinach ricotta mixture into the middle of each lasagna sheet.
- Roll the lasagne and place them seam side down into the baking pan. Continue this process until the spinach mixture is gone. Note: you may have some leftover lasagna sheets.
- Spoon the remaining béchamel sauce onto the top of the rolls, leaving the ends exposed to crisp up. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with foil, making sure the foil doesn't touch the sauce and cheese and cook the roll-ups at 400f for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and broil for the last 1-2 minutes to get some color on top. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve with more parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of minced parsley for garnish.
When and what to serve with spinach lasagna rolls
While spinach lasagna rolls with white sauce are certainly filling and can be considered the main course, I will often serve these roll-ups as an appetizer, or a first course.
I love serving these spinach lasagna rolls, followed by Chicken Scarpariello, or a ribeye steak.
If these roll-ups are the main attraction, you may want to serve alongside a lighter dish, like a chopped salad, or some broccoli with garlic and oil.
Try these other baked pastas
Who doesn't love a good baked pasta? No one. I've got a few tried and true ones on here.
If you're a spinach fan, you'll love ricotta and spinach stuffed shells and this creamy mushroom pasta bake.
This four-cheese manicotti is made with marinara sauce and is perfect for family dinners.
And let's not forget the classic baked ziti made with creamy ricotta and melty mozzarella. Or, if you prefer a heartier, meatier version, check out this rigatoni al forno.
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For the lasagna rolls
- 1 pound lasagna pasta
- 1 pound baby spinach
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup onion minced
- ½ pound mozzarella shredded
- 1 pound ricotta drained overnight
- 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
For the white (béchamel) sauce
- 8 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg plus more to taste
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
How to make white (béchamel) sauce
- To make the béchamel sauce heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted add in the flour a bit at a time and whisk for 2-3 minutes to incorporate all the flour into the butter.
- Raise heat to medium-high and slowly add the milk into the pan and continue whisking to remove any lumps. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat back to medium-low. The béchamel sauce will take about 7-10 minutes to thicken. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon turn off the heat and add in the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Taste test the sauce and add more seasoning if desired.
Assembling the spinach lasagna rolls
- Cook lasagne sheets to very al dente (about 2 minutes less than package instructions) in salted water (2 tablespoons kosher salt) and run under cold water or shock in an ice bath. Lay the sheets flat on parchment paper or clean kitchen towels.
- Saute the onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a large pan. Once the onion turns soft (about 3-4 minutes) add in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more until fragrant.
- Run the spinach under cold water to clean, and place it in the pan with the onions and garlic to steam. Cover and let cook until wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Place the spinach in a wire mesh strainer. When cool enough to touch press the spinach into the strainer to remove as much water as possible.
- Chop the spinach then add it into a large bowl with the ricotta cheese. Mix in the grated parmesan, ⅔'s of the grated mozzarella and season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Taste test and if required add a bit more salt. When satisfied with the taste add 2 beaten eggs and mix into the ricotta and spinach mixture. Set aside.
- Place a thin layer of the béchamel sauce into the bottom of a 10 by 15 or larger baking pan. You might need two pans.
- Spoon roughly 3-4 tablespoons of the spinach ricotta mixture into the middle of each lasagne sheet. Roll the lasagne and place them seam side down into the baking pan. Continue the process, working until all of the spinach has been used up. *there might be leftover lasagne sheets*
- Pour the remaining béchamel sauce on top of the rolls leaving the ends exposed to crisp up a bit. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top.
- Cover with foil (make sure the foil doesn't touch the sauce and cheese) and cook the roll-ups at 400f for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and broil for the last 2 minutes of cooking to get some color on top. Watch carefully to not burn! Serve with more parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh minced parsley for garnish. Enjoy!
- If the béchamel is too thin, whisk in a bit more flour and continue to cook until thickened. If too thick, whisk in a bit more milk and cook for a few minutes more. The white sauce (béchamel) is very easy to modify so don't worry if it needs adjustment.
- Covering with parchment paper, then foil will ensure no sticking. If using just foil, try not to touch the foil to the cheese.
- When broiling at the end, make sure to watch carefully the whole time.
- Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freeze for up to 6 months. To reheat bake at 350f until warm or if just heating up a couple of rolls, use the microwave.
Making these for the second time tonight! This time I’m gonna add shredded chicken.
Hi Pete, thanks for the comment and glad you made these a second time! Shredded chicken would be a great addition!
The recipe calls for 1 c Parm. Is this just for serving on the side, or is it added to the filling (eg when you add the 2/3c mozzarella)?
Hi there, the 1 cup of grated parm gets added to the ricotta, spinach, and mozzarella mixture.