There are days when I am multitasking a boiling pot, frying chicken and roasting vegetables that I wish he didn’t have such a keen fascination with what I was doing in the kitchen. On this particular day, however, I prepped the meal during his nap, excited for his participation once he woke up. I lined up all the ingredients and he stood on a chair and diligently placed one layer on top of another. The focus and concentration out of this kid at such a young age still astounds me. The meal was incredible and tasted even better with that special layer of dreams and fantasies fulfilled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make white sauce: Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon and cook until mixture darkens slightly in color, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Smash and peel garlic. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and add the garlic. Cook, whisking occasionally, until thick (about the consistency of yogurt), about 20 minutes. Season with salt, cayenne and nutmeg.
Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat and salt generously. Add lasagna noodles to boiling water and cook until ardent. Drain, but do not rinse and lay each noodle out flat on a work surface.
Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil. Use hands to squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach (if frozen); set aside. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook meat or mushrooms with spinach and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until meat is no longer pink or mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Tear basil leaves over the mixture and toss.
Cover bottom of the prepared baking dish with 3 of the noodles. Top with 1/4 cup grated cheese, 3/4 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup white sauce and 1/3 of the sausage/mushroom mixture. Season with black pepper.
Add another layer of 3 noodles. Repeat twice and dot the top layer of noodles with the remaining tomato sauce, white sauce and grated cheese, making sure to dot some tomato sauce around the edges so that the noodles don’t dry out. Bake, uncovered for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.
This will freeze really well. After baking, let rest and freeze whole or in portions.