Monday, January 16, 2012

Not-Your-Mother's Lasagna

Does the world really need ANOTHER lasagna recipe? Probably not, but this one is not only lower in fat and calories, but uses ingredients you might already have. Plus it is absolutely delicious! 
I hope you enjoy this healthy take on lasagna. If you have yellow squash instead of zucchini growing in your garden, it substitutes nicely (or you can use a combination of both). I used a local pasta sauce: Buon Giorno Italia of Summit Foods, St. Paul Minnesota.
Not-Your-Mother’s Lasagna
 1 pkg.  no-boil lasagna noodles
 32 oz. jar tomato-basil (or other yummy sounding) pasta sauce
 2 links fresh chicken Italian sausage
 8 oz. bag reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
 8 oz. bag of an Italian blend shredded cheese (regular fat content preferred for meltability)
 1 medium sized zucchini, about 8 inches long and 1.5 inches wide
 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
 1 egg
 1 Tbsp. dried parsley

Grease a 9 x 13ish lasagna pan with olive oil. Pour ½ cup sauce into the bottom and spread to cover the base of the pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the casings from the chicken sausage and break-up the links in a large saucepan. Fry the chicken pieces until completely cooked and add the rest of the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, scraping all the flavoring bits off the bottom of the pan. If you like a bit more spice, you could add a shake of red pepper flakes.

In a food processor, puree cottage cheese, egg and parsley until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl and add 1 cup of the reduced-fat cheese.

Using a mandolin slicer, slice the zucchini into thin rounds. You will slightly overlap these circles in the pan as a substitute to what is traditionally a noodle layer.

Layer the following ingredients starting with #1 as the bottom layer. Don’t worry if there is space on the sides of the layers. As the lasagna cooks, it will expand to the edges of the pan.

1.       3-4 lasagna noodles
2.       ½ of the cottage cheese mixture
3.       zucchini slices
4.       3-4 lasagna noodles
5.       ½ of the meat sauce
6.       zucchini slices
7.       1 cup of the reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
8.       3-4 lasagna noodles
9.       zucchini slices
10.   ½ of the cottage cheese mixture
11.   3-4 lasagna noodles
12.   ½ of the meat sauce
13.   2 cups of Italian blended shredded cheese 

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil. At this point, you could refrigerate until dinner time. (If the lasagna is coming from the fridge, you can put it in the oven while it is preheating.)

Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes. Remove the foil at the end of cooking and brown the cheese to your liking. I also check the internal temperature of the dish to make sure that it reached at least 165 degrees.

Here is the most important part: Allow the lasagna to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into the dish. This will help it hold together better when you cut it up and allow the cheese to bind the layers together a bit.

Time to eat! Enjoy!

* A note about lasagna noodles: The lasagna noodle companies are pretty smart—not only do they give you more than you need, but an odd number of noodles! To use the remnants of a box, I will often make a smaller scale of this recipe in a loaf pan. The noodles fit perfectly as a single layer. It works great if making lasagna for one eater, too.

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