Real women eat carbs, ladies. So load up on some ’sagn! This healthified version combines whole wheat noodles, low-fat cheeses and tons of veggies, making it a protein-, fiber- and vitamin-packed meal. It’s also the perfect meal to serve when you’re hostessing (just ask my buddy & fave dinner guest Pete, who asked for the recipe!)
Whole wheat lasagna noodles aren’t always as easy to find as the regular kind. Health food stores are your best bet, and if your supermarket has a natural foods aisle, you may find them there. I won’t lie, they’re more expensive—I generally pay about $4.50—but that’s one item I don’t mind splurging on. Simple carbs make your bod unhappy; they’re basically nutrient-less yuck create a spike in your blood sugar and make you hungry sooner. Whole grains, on the other hand (and I mean WHOLE grains, not products that mix “wheat flour” with “whole wheat flour”) are naturally full of nutrients, including a good deal of protein and fiber, which keep you full longer!
I like to make my lasagna with lots of creamy low-fat ricotta and cottage cheese, and just a sprinklin’ of shredded mozzarella. This way, I don’t feel deprived of the warm, cheesy gooiness I crave, but I can keep the fat content of my meal in check.
Finally, I encourage you to use your favourite veggies to make your lasagna just the way you like it. My faves combos are mushroom & spinach, and zucchini, squash & broccoli (or all of them together!) Eggplant can also be a yummy addition, but I seem to encounter a lot of peeps who don’t care for eggplant in their ’sagn. Omnivores can toss in chicken sausage to satisfy a meat craving.
A word to the wise: though this meal only takes about 15 minutes to prepare, allow plenty of time for baking. The taller you pile your lasagna pan, the longer it will take to cook through. If you’re having company or need to eat by a specific time, allow an hour and a half for to be safe; this should allow for cooling time as well.
Lasagna makes GREAT leftovers! I find that the flavour is even better the next day!
Ingredients (makes at least 8 servings):
1/2 package whole wheat lasagna noodles
1/2 jar tomato sauce, your favourite flavour
1 small container low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese
1 small container low-fat or fat-free ricotta cheese
1 package shredded mozzarella*
2 10-oz packages spinach leaves
1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 head of broccoli
2-3 cloves garlic
3 tsp. olive oil, separated
Italian seasoning or your favourite Italian herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme & marjoram)
Salt & pepper
optional toppings: 1-2 vine-ripe tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, sliced black olives & shredded parmesan cheese
*I recommend using part-skim mozzarella, but NOT reduced-fat; it doesn’t melt well and tastes plasticy when it’s cooked.
1. Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350º and boiling a big pot of water (if your noodles require pre-cooking, that is; not all do).
2. Wash veggies dry them really well to prevent watery lasagna (spinach is the major culprit here.) Mince garlic and slice zucchini, squash and broccoli.
3. In a large frying pan, sautee garlic in 1 tsp. olive oil until lightly browned. Set aside and let the zucchini, squash and broccoli have a turn. Add another tsp. or two of oil if you need too. Add the mushrooms when zucchini and squash have begun to soften just a bit. Careful not to overcook—your veggies should have a bit of crunch to them.
4. While the veggies are cooking, combine cottage cheese & ricotta in a medium mixing bowl and stir well. Add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
5. When your veggies are cooked, and them to the garlic and sautee the spinach alone.
6. Your noodles should be done by now (you want them al dente—not too soft,) so you’re ready to assemble! Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce at the bottom of the pan to prevent stickage. Next comes a layer of noodles; use only enough to cover the pan rather than piling them on. Begin your layer of veggies by spreading the spinach over the noodles, trying to get the layer as even as possible. Add the garlic & veggie mixture. Top with tomato sauce—the amount you use can depend on your taste. Next, add another layer of noodles and top with the creamy cheese mixture. You may not need all of it; this will depend on the size of your lasagna pan. Top with a light sprinkling of shredded mozzarella—you don’t need to use the whole package if you’re concerned about keeping the fat content down.
7. Toppings can really jazz up your ’sagn! I like to add thinly sliced tomato, black olives and fresh basil leaves.
8. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for an hour. When time is up, slice into the middle to check for doneness. This can be difficult, because your lasagna will inevitably be a little runny, but some of that will set as it cools. If you’re using a larger or deeper pan, it may require another 10-15 minutes. If you like your cheese nice and brown, remove the foil before you return the pan to the oven.
9. Allow about 10 minutes for cooling. Approach with caution—tomato sauce is evil when it’s hot.
Serving suggestions: mixed greens with bell pepper and black olives; a slice of crusty whole grain bread (you don’t really need bread to go with your pasta, but I LOVE to mop up tomato & cheese with crusty bread!)