Friday, July 27, 2012

The Conflicted Chef- 3 Sisters Making Healthy Lasagna

One thing I’ve never been conflicted about is the time my family spends in the kitchen. I grew up in the kitchen. The smell of  garlic sautéing, the bubbling of roasted tomatoes, the way the kitchen light bounces off the countertops, it speaks to my heart. Happiness could always be found in the kitchen.
I’m not sure what I would have done if my children didn’t like to cook. I’m glad I didn’t have to find out. My three daughters are amazing in the kitchen. The dishes may not always turn out, but they are still a joy to watch. They are making memories that they may not cherish now, but some day they will.
They’ve been known to tackle dishes such as Kim chi right alongside good ‘ole chocolate chip cookies. So when a call went out for a more healthy lasagna, that they would still eat, they tackled it. And they started with the pasta.
A whole wheat pasta will really help cut the calories and we usually use whole wheat in our dishes. But I have to confess, they didn’t on this day. My husband is the main pasta maker and he’s a little bit of a purist at times. He had bought a big bag of Semolina flour, which is the way it is traditionally made, so the girls used that. They are good kids like that, trying to appease both Dad and Mom. But I’ll include a recipe for whole wheat pasta so you can decide which you’d rather use.
This is a pasta machine that was given to us one Christmas by my sister. We get very excited around here with gifts that center around the kitchen, imagine that. Anyway, they are wonderful fun and make the pasta making very easy. You can make pasta without a machine. Check out Sugarlaws blog to find an awesome machine free recipe (and it’s whole wheat too).
Here the pasta is drying on cooling racks. I love seeing my countertops covered in fresh pasta.
Next is the filling. One great way to cut calories here is to add bulk by not using lots of meat, but by using veggies. You could even do all veggies, but again my girls want their Dad to eat it so they compromised. They used turkey sausage, and lots of mushrooms in the filling. You could add spinach, caramelized onions, eggplant, zucchini, whatever sounds good to you.
Cheese, yummy cheese makes a lasagna. If you use cheese made from skim milk or 1% milk you can further cut calories. Or you could use less cheese. But please don’t use the fat free cheese, it doesn’t melt and then you have a crispy, crunchy layer to your lasagna. Moderation is the key when cooking and eating. You knew I was going to say that right? I just get so frustrated when people get crazy with the no-fat foods, no sugar foods, unless medically you are on a special diet. Just eat a smaller piece of lasagna and a bigger bowl of salad dang it. Whew, okay my lecture is over.
I’d show you a piece of cooked lasagna, but it got eaten before I could get the camera. Yes, it was that good. My girls did a great job cutting calories, but not taste on this dish. It received 5 smiles and a few extra, as we made an extra pan to give away when we made this batch.
This recipe we adapted from Eating Well for the filling:
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound lean spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (see Variation)
  • 4 cups sliced mushrooms, (10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, preferably chunky
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound part-skim ricotta cheese (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. 
  1. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and water; cook, stirring occasionally and crumbling the sausage more, until it is cooked through, the water has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Mix tomatoes with basil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  3. To assemble lasagna: Spread 1/2 cup of the tomatoes in the prepared baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, trimming to fit if necessary. Evenly dollop half the ricotta over the noodles. Top with half the sausage mixture, one-third of the remaining tomatoes and one-third of the mozzarella. Continue with another layer of noodles, the remaining ricotta, the remaining sausage, half the remaining tomatoes and half the remaining mozzarella. Top with a third layer of noodles and the remaining tomatoes.
  4. Cover the lasagna with foil and bake until bubbling and heated through, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove the foil; sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is just melted but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Since our noodles were fresh we didn’t need to cook them before assembling, also there are noodles you can buy that you don’t have to cook before hand. I think it just makes things easier to not have to cook the noodles.
For a good pasta recipe we like to use the one from Bob’s Red Mill, since we like his flour.
So tell me what is your favorite type of lasagna? And do you like whole wheat pasta at your house?

Happy Eating,
The Conflicted Chef


Ginger Calem said...

Looks absolutely delicious!!

I love a hearty veggie lasagna and I do love ricotta cheese. Lately I've discovered quinoa pasta. It's got a hearty rich flavor.

Memories in the kitchen with the family are the best!

Coleen Patrick said...

I'm so impressed with the noodle making from scratch!
Looks super yum :)

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.