Growing up, lasagna was not my favorite thing…In fact, I can actually say I didn’t like it at all. My aversion to it was all the variations that I had tried included cottage cheese and something about its consistency didn’t jive with my palate. As I grew older and began cooking in the kitchen myself, I learned that authentic Italian Lasagnas didn’t have cottage cheese in them at all but, in fact, used Ricotta Cheese. I now know that the primary reason cottage cheese was used so readily in my younger years was because we did not have the supermarkets of today and ricotta was usually found only in specialty markets. Still, memories stick with you and I wasn’t overly anxious to make lasagna.
Lasagna is one of Jeff’s favorite meals and if he is going to the hunt camp after work on a Friday, he will stop by the Fresh Market and get some of theirs to reheat in his outdoor oven at the camp. Since I often send food with him, I knew I should really try lasagna again since taste buds change so much as you get older. Then, last week, as I was sitting on my front porch on a beautiful fall day reading the latest edition of Cooking Light Magazine, it just jumped out of the pages…a recipe for Classic Lasagna with Meat Sauce! And guess what? The recipe had NO Cottage Cheese!
My daughter, Ashleigh, always watches what she eats and she prefers when I cook for her to keep it somewhat healthy. So when I found out that she was coming over for dinner and saw that this recipe only had 378 calories, I knew I was going to try it out on this rainy weekday evening. Not only that, I was truly going to try to stick to the recipe and make it with no adjustments…unusual for me.
Well, there in lies the problem…good cooking is being able to adapt and recover in the kitchen and while I followed the ingredients the best I could, I didn’t have an 11 x 7 pan size so my recipe was going to have to be adjusted to fit a little larger 2.5 quart lasagna pan changing the servings from 6 to 8 but not affecting the calorie count. (I did have to add a little more ricotta, cheese, and meat sauce to the recipe to reflect this change.) It also changed how I cut my noodles and I could not find fat-free ricotta so I used low-fat but did not add the melted butter the recipe stated to keep the integrity of the calorie count. The recipe that follows is my adapted version but if you do have an 11 x 7 pan, I have included the original recipe below.
(Note: In my pictures, you will notice that there is a lot more sauce and ricotta than indicated in the recipe. That is because I was making two lasagnas…one for my personal chef family & one for mine.)
- 1 1/3 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 5 garlic cloves, minced and divided
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 16 ounces extra-lean ground beef (93% lean)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 (25-ounce) jar lower-sodium marinara sauce (I used Prego Heart Healthy)
- Cooking spray
- 9 lasagna noodles, cooked (cut the bottom 1/4 off each one to fit a 2.5 quart pan..discard extra pieces)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Combine ricotta, 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) mozzarella, 2 tablespoons parsley, butter, oregano, 1 garlic clove, and egg; set aside.
3. Place ground beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; sprinkle with peppers and remaining 4 garlic cloves. Cook for 9 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble; drain. Return beef mixture to pan; stir in marinara sauce, and let simmer until heated through.
4. Spread 1/2 cup meat sauce in bottom of a broiler-safe 2.5 glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Place 3 noodles on top of meat sauce and cover noodles with another 1 1/4 cups meat sauce.
Top with 3 noodles and ALL of ricotta mixture.
Finally, add the remaining 3 noodles. Spread remaining meat sauce over top noodles. Sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese and top with chopped parsely.
Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes. (The recipe called for 30 minutes but I found that it needed longer to heat through). Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until bubbly.
(Note: I skipped the next two steps since my lasagna was already perfectly browned and bubbly)
5. Preheat broiler to high. (Keep lasagna in oven.)
6. Broil lasagna for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbly.
Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes (I only did 5) and cut into 8 pieces.
I now love lasagna and can’t wait to make this again! Jeff and Ashleigh said they couldn’t tell at all that it was a low-calorie recipe and it was one of their favorite dishes. Jeff had 2 servings and Ashleigh and I had one. She took the leftovers home to her sick brother, Jarrod, who ate the remaining 4 servings in one sitting! (Yes, that does defeat the purpose of making a “light” lasagna..ha, ha!) My personal chef family loved it as well! I think the only thing I would do different at all is maybe add a bit more seasoning to my meat when I am browning and maybe add in some sauteed onions but other than that, this recipe is a real WINNER! This is definitely one to try in your kitchen and you won’t even have to tell your family that it is a “light” recipe! I am Chef Frankie and until next time….”Keep on Cooking”!
For the original recipe from Cooking Light, see: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/classic-lasagna-meat-sauce-50400000137540/