Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Leanest of Layers


Layers upon layers of pasta, meat, and cheese- What's not to love about lasagna? Possibly the miserable feeling of fullness upon finishing a dinner portion at your favorite Italian restaurant. Or maybe the fact that your entree alone could easily contain about 870 calories and 50g of fat. Typically served while waiting for your meal to be prepared, if you munch on the bread with olive oil, you have met your daily caloric needs all in one sitting. If that is not bad enough, then your waiter tempts you with the chef's award-winning tiramisu (I will save the horrifying statistics for another time). You can see how this Italian classic can quickly turn into a diet disaster when dining out, but there are healthier ways to enjoy lasagna with your homemade touch.

My lasagna originated from a Kraft recipe, but has been altered to a healthy satisfaction and taste perfection. It makes for a perfect meal for guests and, in my opinion, is even better reheated the next day. I often assemble the lasagna ahead of time and refrigerate it until I am ready to bake the gooey dish. I have made substitutions such as using ground turkey breast to replace ground beef, fat free cottage cheese to replace ricotta, and fat free mozzarella cheese in place of full fat Italian cheeses. Make sure to use ground turkey breast, as some ground turkey has the same amount of calories and fat as ground beef. I also use egg beaters instead of eggs and whole wheat noodles to increase the fiber content. All of these simple swaps drastically reduce calories, fat, and carbs. To increase the nutrient content, I have added mushrooms and spinach, which also provide a more colorful presentation. The serving size is 1/8 of a 9x13 pan. It may not be quite as large as what you are accustom to at a restaurant, but it is a good size portion- perfect when paired with a healthy salad or side of veggies. In my earlier stages of learning to cook, I made this recipe using jarred pasta sauce. While it does save time and can contain nearly the same nutrition, store bought sauce cannot replace a fresh, homemade tomato sauce. The sauce must simmer for a while in order to allow the herbs and spices to disperse throughout the crushed tomatoes, but the hands-on time is very minimal and definitely worth it. If you are preparing this in advance, make the sauce a day or two early and keep refrigerated until you are ready to make the lasagna. This sauce is also great served over plain pasta or with meatballs. Whether you choose to make your own sauce or not, this lasagna proves that Italian food can be made healthy. Don't tell anyone that it is a lighter version, and they will never know. My family now prefers this recipe to high-fat lasagna, and I love being able to provide them with a delicious, nutritious meal.

The Leanest of Layers Lasagna
serves 8

9 uncooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 cup egg beaters
16 oz. fat free or 1% cottage cheese
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed or fresh spinach, cooked
2 cups shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 recipe for homemade tomato sauce or 25 oz. jar prepared pasta sauce

1. Spray 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain noodles as directed on package. Place in cold water.
2. Cook ground turkey in skillet with garlic and ground red pepper until thoroughly cooked. Add meat to tomato sauce in a large pot. Add mushrooms to prepared jar sauce or add to homemade sauce 30 minutes before you plan to remove the sauce from simmering. 
3. In a small bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg beaters, basil, and spinach.
4. Drain noodles. Spread about 1/2 cup meat sauce over bottom of baking dish. Top with 3 noodles, 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce, half the cottage cheese mixture, and 3/4 cups mozzarella cheese. 
5. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining noodles, sauce, and mozzarella cheese; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
6. Spray a 15-inch piece of foil with cooking spray. Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tablespoons Splenda or sweetener of choice
1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until onions soften and garlic turns golden (not brown).
2. Empty tomatoes and all other ingredients into pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer for 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on time available.

Nutrition: (1 serving with homemade tomato sauce) 300 calories, 33g carbohydrate, 38g protein, 4g fat, 6g fiber

***For carb counters or diabetics, there is a low carb, high fiber brand of pasta that can be substituted in this recipe. The pasta is made by Fiber Gourmet. I use their pastas as much as I can because it tastes exactly like regular pasta but contains 18g of fiber and only 130 calories per serving. The only problem is that very few stores carry this pasta. It can be ordered from Fiber Gourmet in a 6-pack or 12-pack. If you just want to try one box, you can find it at Netrition.

Nutrition: (1 serving with homemade tomato sauce and Fiber Gourmet noodles) 282 calories, 33g carbohydrate, 38g protein, 4g fat, 10g fiber, 23g net carbohydrate

***If you are using prepared pasta sauce, look for a brand that contains no more than 50 calories and 5g of sugar per serving. One of my favorites is Muir Glen Portabello Mushroom Pasta Sauce.


Trey said...

Hey Lauren! I've been following your blog for the last couple weeks and I'm loving all your recipes. This lasagna is actually in the stove right now :) But I was just wondering where the 1 Cup of Sliced Mushrooms go? They weren't listed anywhere in the directions.

lamandle said...

Hi! I am so glad you are enjoying the recipes. The mushrooms go in the sauce about 30 minutes before you are planning to remove the sauce from the stove or you can just mix them into the sauce if you are using a pre-made sauce. Sorry about that and thank you so much for catching it. There are bound to be many other errors of the sort. Please let me know if you see them :) Hope all is well and thank you so much for following my blog!

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About Lauren


Nutrition student with a passion for giving yummy recipes a healthy make-over. Future RD on a constant search for the best food finds. And new blogger trying to relay my tasty ideas to everyone else.

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Please feel free to email me with any questions, suggestions, or comments at lamandle88@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

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