Friday, January 22, 2016

A Healthy & Easy Lasagna Recipe

Over the years I've modified a few classic recipes to make them healthier and I've done this for so long that I have actually forgotten that this isn't the 'normal' way to make things.  Take my lasagna recipe for example: to me, lasagna is tomato saucy and packed with vegetables.  If you order lasagna at restaurant, it is packed with noodles and cheese.

While Andy and I love this kind of dish, I was a little embarrassed to serve this not-quite-lasagna to our recent house guest, Andy's cousin Emily who was in town from San Francisco.  It was the middle of the week, the middle of winter and I'm in the middle of the third trimester.  An extravagant dinner this was not.

To my surprise, she was actually very interested in this dish!  She really liked it and commented on how light but also delicious it was (yay!) and asked if it was on the blog.

Well here you are my sweet girl.  Thank you for turning my boring recipe into an internet sensation!!!

Instead of a compact recipe at the bottom of my post, I'll give you a play by play on how to get from a pile of groceries on the counter to a hot and healthy dinner like this beauty...

The ingredients are straightforward:

- 9 or 10 lasagna noodles
- a large jar of pasta sauce (24 oz)
- 2 cups of mozzarella
- grated parmesan to taste
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 Italian pork sausage, squeezed out of the casing
- Vegetables

I've used a variety of vegetables along the way, but I've recently been using veggies that I don't mind a little raw in this context:  mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, bell pepper (broccoli, chard, tomatoes, green peas).

Veggies that I would saute ahead of time if I were to include them in this lasagna are:  carrots, onions, butternut squash, sweet potatoes.

Okay so I don't like raw zucchini.  But I dice them small and thin enough that they bake in the short time they are exposed to heat.  One thing I can't stand is an overcooked zucchini and this raw approach ensures that won't happen!

While dicing the vegetables, I cook the ground turkey and sausage in a 4.5 qt pot, using a spatula to break the meat into crumbly pieces.  Once the meat is cooked all the way through, I add the raw veggies to the hot meat, turn off the stove and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare 9 to 10 lasagna noodles as instructed.  I prefer al dente and keep a close eye on these.  I used to try the type of lasagna noodles that don't need to be boiled ahead of time but those never turned out for me - probably because my lasagna recipe is atypical so not enough time in the oven to cook them.  Plus with so few noodles used in this dish, why not get the good ones?

Of the 24 oz jar of pasta sauce, I set 1 cup aside to use on the top of the lasagna and about 1/4 cup to use on the bottom of the lasagna.  Use a spoon to spread it around.  The rest of the pasta sauce goes into the pot with the meat and raw veggies to create the filling.

At this point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Layer 3 al dente noodles before piling on the good stuff...

Add one half of the filling from the pot, top with a generous handful of spinach and about half of your mozzarella.

Add another noodle layer of just 3 to 4 noodles, top with the rest of the filling, more spinach and the rest of your mozzarella cheese.

By now all the filling should be in the dish.  Top with your final 3 noodles, evenly disperse the reserved 1 cup of pasta sauce directly on the noodles.

It is important to cover any exposed noodles with the sauce.  Any noodle uncovered may get unpleasantly crisp while baking.  Use a spoon to spread the sauce around where it is needed.

Top your lasagna with some fresh grated parmesan.

This lasagna is PACKED with veggies.  No eggs, no ricotta, no long bake times.  25 minutes at 350 degrees and you have yourself a healthy, easy and delicious meal.  And there will probably be leftovers for a day or two which makes it even better!

All the cheesy, veggie, meaty, saucy flavors you want out of lasagna without all the extra calories and crap (seriously, what is ricotta?!) that comes with traditional recipes - hooray!

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