Cooking Challenge – Low-Cal Lasagna

By / Food / September 13th, 2012 / 2

The Tidings Cooking Challenge is an opportunity for food lovers to try their hand at creating something together. Not all in the same kitchen, of course. Rather, try the recipe in your own time and then come back and tell us what you thought of it. You can add your comments directly underneath the post, or send a photo of your creation to [email protected]

Lasagna has always held a special spot in my heart. For those of us of Italian heritage, it’s truly comfort food extraordinaire. Every family has its own particular interpretation of this classic. In my family, not only is practically every part of the recipe made from scratch, but instead of pasta sheets, we use crêpes. Lighter than the French version, the crêpes are made from a mixture of eggs, water and a few spoonfuls of flour – just enough to give a smooth, cream-like consistency. The filling is made up of a little ground beef, chopped hard boiled eggs, tomato sauce and enough grated mozzarella cheese to hold the layers together without being stringy or too cheesy.

The beauty of lasagna is that you can make it whatever you want it to be. A weeknight meal? Why not. A light, low-cal treat? Of course. With a few simple substitutions, you can create a delectable and healthy meal that’s good enough to serve to company. First, look for whole wheat lasagna pasta to increase the fibre content. If that’s tough to find, try making egg-based crêpes. Use turkey meat instead of beef. Better yet, if you’d like to go vegetarian, leave the meat out completely and toss in extra mushrooms for the full flavour without the animal protein. Finally, use skim milk ricotta, and if you’d like, skim milk mozzarella as well – just go easy on the amount you add to the dish.

Classic Lasagna
Serves 8

Meat Sauce

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces ground turkey
1 small onion, finely chopped
12 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or two salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup white wine
2 700g bottles tomato passata (simply tomato purée sold unadorned with any other ingredients – or tomato seeds)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Spinach Filling

3 cups skim milk ricotta cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pkg frozen spinach, thawed
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Ground nutmeg, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. For sauce: Reserve about 1 cup of tomato purée. Heat the reserved tomato in a small saucepan with a little olive oil and some whole basil leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 30 minutes; remove and discard basil leaves and set aside. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add ground turkey and cook until brown; stir occasionally to break up the meat. Add onions and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic. Sauté until the liquid released by the mushrooms has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the wine and let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining tomato purée, oregano, basil and thyme. Place pan lid halfway over the pan and let simmer for 45 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Cook noodles until just tender, follow package directions. Drain each sheet in a colander, then lay them on kitchen towels until you need them.

4. For the filling: Reserve 1 cup of ricotta cheese; set aside. Season ricotta with salt, pepper and nutmeg; stir to combine. Stir in parsley. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add thawed spinach and sauté until heated through, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the spinach into the ricotta mixture. Spread about 1/2 cup of the meat sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer 3 pasta sheets on top. Spread about 1 cup sauce over the noodles. Dot about 1/3 cup ricotta over the sauce. Continue layering the lasagne sheets, sauce and ricotta. For the top layer, spread the reserved tomato purée over the top. Dot the reserved ricotta cheese over the sauce; cover with foil.

5. Bake the lasagna until the sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Serve with your favourite Chianti.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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