Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Classic Lasagna

Who doesn't love a classic lasagna?  Rich, meaty, cheesy goodness -- it's seriously one of my favorite things to eat.  There's only one thing wrong with them, and if you've been reading this month's blog you'll know what it is -- they take so long to prepare!!!!  But this is the last dish I'm preparing (this month) from The Essential Eating Well Cookbook, and I thought a little effort was certainly deserved.

The book promised "An old-fashioned meat-and-cheese lasagna made lusciously low-fat."  Hmm...I've had low fat lasagnas, and they taste, um, well they taste like they're low fat lasagnas but nothing ventured nothing gained, right?  So a little over three hours later I pull the lasagna from the oven, and I am disappointingly underwhelmed. The pasta looked dry, the sauce sparse, and little sad spots of cheese lay across the top definitely made it look low fat, but luscious?  I was skeptical.  So we waited 10 minutes to let the casserole cool, and then we dug in.  It's really amazing how tasty this pasta was.  Truthfully, I prefer more sauce and cheese, but it was flavorful, cheesy, and delicious.  And the biggest surprise of all?  It had less fat and calories than the Lasagne al Forno I made earlier in the month!

As this is the last recipe of the month I suppose it's my last chance to make a confession.  I didn't always follow the recipes when it came to how much oil to use, and I didn't use low fat dairy items.  Listen -- here's my opinion on low fat anything:  Life is short -- use the real stuff!  Moderate the rich, fatty stuff, and enjoy it!  So eat your tuna packed in oil, use real butter, make your own Ranch Dressing with real buttermilk, etc., etc., just don't eat it every day!  Thanks, I feel better getting that off my chest.

Okay, so in this dish I used a tbsp of oil in the meat sauce instead of 1/2 tbsp (Hello!  Turkey sausage?  Didn't want it to stick), left out the sun-dried tomatoes (don't like them), used crimini mushrooms (such a rich meaty taste, and better texture than button), and skipped the nonfat and part-skim suggestions for the cheese.  Delicious!  This is definitely my new go-to lasagna recipe.

Classic Lasagna
The Essential Eating Well Cookbook
Serves 8

Meat Sauce:
1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces hot or sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
2 onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
12 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 28-oz cans plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), slivered
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/ tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)

Pasta & Cheese Filling:
12 lasagna noodles (12 ounces)
2 cups nonfat ricotta cheese
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
ground nutmeg to taste
1 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1.  To prepare meat sauce:  Heat oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook, breaking up clumps, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add onions and carrot; cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms and garlic; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until mushroom liquid evaporates, 4 to 6 minutes.
2.  Stir in wine, plum tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, basic, thyme and crushed red pepper.  Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.  Uncover and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is very thick, 30 to 45 minutes more.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
3.  To prepare filling & assemble lasagna:  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
4.  Cook noodles until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain, then cool by plunging noodles into a large bowl of ice-cold water.  Lay noodles out on kitchen towels.
5.  Season ricotta with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Spread about 1 1/2 cups meat sauce in prepared pan.  Layer 3 noodles on top.  Spread another 1 cup sauce over noodles.  Dot about 2/3 cup ricotta over sauce, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella and 2 tbsp Parmesan.  Continue layering noodles, sauce and cheese, finishing with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.  Sprinkle with parsley; cover with foil.
6.  Bake the lasagna for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.  Uncover and bake until golden, 5 to 10 minutes morel  Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

Per serving:  361 calories; 8g fat; 33mg cholesterol; 46g carbohydrate; 24g protein; 9g fiber; 367mg sodium.
Nutrition Bonus:  36% DV Fiber, 30% DV Calcium

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