Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Winter Means Lasagna.

So last winter I perfected this recipe for lasagna that I originally found on Cooking Light. Every time I made it, I changed something which seemed to make it better. I made it all winter long to Greg's happiness...but I can't seem to find the drive to make it at all in hot weather. So I only pull it out when the weather is BRRisk.

Unfort now I can't find the sauce that I used to use as easily, so short of ordering it online in packs of TWELVE, I am trying to find an alternative. The one I made on Sunday was a very close contender, good in a pinch but I'm still testing.

Funny I never used to be a lasagna fan til I made mine. We both absolutely love it. And I never even bother eating it anywhere else because I don't like it as much as mine. And mine is healthy..so I like it even more. Because while it's way better for you than most lasagnas out there, you cannot tell..because I'm such a flavor whore that I make sure it doesn't taste the least bit non-saturated.

My 'recipe' is loosey goosey...I basically add whatever I want in terms of quantity..aka if you like mushrooms, add a lot. Like it more meaty, add more meat. Like it more saucey, add more sauce. But here is the jist.

For the meat sauce:
1lb ground 94/6 lean beef (or you can do a ground turkey beef blend)
1/2 diced onion
12oz can of tomato sauce
12oz can of diced tomatoes (use regular or basil/garlic or whatever you want)
Jar of pasta sauce (My fave was Emerils Kicked Up Tomato, a nice spicy lift to it, but I can't find it anymore locally so I have been experimenting. This time I used Trader Giottos (TJ's brand)..see picture below!)
6oz Baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
6oz Crimini mushrooms, sliced
Dried Oregano; Dried Basil
Diced Garlic
EVOO for pan/spray

For the 'ricotta' cheese mix:
1 or 2 egg whites
1 container fat free or low fat cottage cheese
1/2c shredded parmesan
1/2c shredded skim mozzarella

For layering/prepping:
8x8 or 11x8 deep baking dish
Lasagna noodles (I love Dreamfields, it's got a ton of protein and fiber and lower in carbs)
1/2 a can of tomato sauce or rest of Pasta sauce jar

For the meat sauce..I sautee garlic in a spray of EVOO til fragrant. Add onion, cook 1-2 min til slightly translucent. Add ground beef/turkey, toss til mostly cooked. Add mushrooms, basil, oregano. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta sauce jar...stirring each time you add something. I typically only use 3/4 of the jar of pasta sauce. Reserve the rest for later. Let everything simmer in pan for 5-10 minutes, putting lid or screen on to prevent splattering.

I typically make the sauce 4-6 hours before building my lasagna OR let it sit overnight in the fridge. The reason is that I noticed when I did this that the meat soaked up most of the sauce and it became an even richer tasting dish and less 'saucey'. So if you have the time, pour the pan contents into a big bowl, cover and refridgerate. Another option is to pour it into a crockpot at this point and let it simmer on low for 3-4 hours. This will also reduce sauce pretty quickly.

When it's time to build lasagna, mix cottage cheese, parm, mozz and egg whites in a bowl. Put small amount of sauce only on bottom of dish.

Note, I don't use 'no precook' lasagna noodles because you don't have to with this dish. So don't pre-cook your noodles, no matter how much you think 'well there's no way they will soften without a pre-cook'. Trust me..they will. Also don't use those lame no-cook Barilla noodles, they are the most useless flimsy noodles ever and the dish is not the same with them. Dreamfields has those thick deep ridges that lasagna noodles should have. So make sure you use something like that.

Put down Lasagna noodles (I have to break mine 3/4 of the way to get them to fit in a square dish, if you use a 11x8 you won't have to do this) on top of sauce. Pour a bit of the regular tomato sauce over the noodles to wet them a bit (this is where the not-needing-to-bake-lasagna-comes-in. Spoon meat mixture over noodles. Spoon cottage cheese mixture over meat mixture, smooth over to cover. (I use small spoonfulls around the dish to keep coverage even but without building too bulky of a layer). Another pasta layer on top. A bit more basic/plain sauce. More meat. Another layer of cottage cheese. Then on top of the cottage cheese, layer a bit more meat sauce. Meat should be on the top, because the cottage cheese mixture will burn if exposed.

Bake at 365 for about 30 minutes. Pull out, top with 1/4c mozz cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes or until bubbling. My dish is always packed full so I get some boil over, best to cook on a cookie sheet or similar to catch runoff.

Let sit for ~15 minutes to cool a bit before cutting. This stuff is awesome the next day as well. Serve with toasted garlic butter bread...or our favorite, the Moroccan Olive bread from TJ's.


1 comment:

Janna & Derrick said...

Your picture taking abilities are improving all the time.
Lasagna looks tasty. I need to make some soon before it starts to warm up here.
I wish we had Trader Joes here.