Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Vegetable Lasagna

It was really too hot to cook today, but my friend had given me some beautiful, organically-grown summer squash from her garden and I desperately wanted to make this recipe. Luckily, it cooks in a dish just the right size to fit inside my toaster oven, so we didn't cook while it did! This is the time of year when zucchini are plentiful in the garden or readily available at the farm stand, so I assembled two lasagnas and froze one for some busy day in the future. (If you do the same, wrap well to prevent freezer burn. Also, to cook from frozen add another 30 minutes to the cooking time.)

Lasagna may sound difficult, but the "no-boil" noodles available make it super easy. You can find them next to the regular lasagna noodles in your grocery. They're thinner than the boiled variety, which is perfect for someone looking to reduce their carbs. Also, use whatever vegetables you have on hand to create your own version and enjoy this wonderful, comforting meal at any time of year!

Summer Vegetable Lasagna
(Serves 6)

1 (10 oz.) package of frozen chopped spinach (thaw or microwave for 5 minutes)
15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon basil, dried (or 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped)
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 cups No sugar added spaghetti sauce (I use Hunt’s brand)
1 teaspoon Italian herbs, dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 no boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)
1½ cups zucchini, quartered and sliced thin
1½ cups summer squash, quartered and sliced thin
1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Spray an 8" x 8" glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. If spinach is frozen, place in microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Place spinach in strainer and press out as much liquid as possible using the back of a spoon. If still warm from microwave, allow to cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.

3. Place cooled and drained spinach in a medium mixing bowl. Add ricotta cheese, Parmesan, nutmeg, pepper, basil and egg. Mix together with a fork until well combined; set aside.

4. To the spaghetti sauce, add the Italian herbs and garlic and stir to combine. Measure ¾ cup of the sauce into the baking dish and spread to coat the bottom. Lay two no-boil lasagna noodles side-by-side on top of the sauce. Spread ½ of the ricotta-spinach mixture over the noodles, being sure to spread mixture to edges of dish. Top with 1½ cups sliced squashes and distribute equally. Measure 6 tablespoons sauce over vegetables and spread to edges of dish. Sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup mozzarella.

5. On top of the cheese, lay two more lasagna noodles side-by-side, but going in the opposite direction than the first layer. Top with remaining ricotta-spinach mixture and the remaining sliced vegetables. Measure another 6 tablespoons of sauce over vegetables and spread to edges of dish. Sprinkle evenly with another ¼ cup mozzarella.

6. For the final layer, lay the last two lasagna noodles side-by-side, but again going in the opposite direction from the layer before. Top noodles with remaining sauce and sprinkle evenly with remaining ½ cup mozzarella cheese. (Note: Noodles will puff up during cooking, so you’ll want at least ½-inch free at top of dish to allow for this expansion.)

7. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover tightly. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving to allow the filling to set.

Nutritional Information per serving (1/6th of recipe): 329 calories, 28.2 g carbohydrate, 13.9 g total fat, 7.2 g saturated fat, 4.4 g fiber, 22.4 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2009

How does this recipe compare to traditional lasagna? This lasagna is considerably lower in calories, carbohydrates and fats. For comparison, the lunch-size portion of traditional meat lasagna at a well-known Italian restaurant (only 4" x 4½" slice) is an astonishing 858 calories, 54 g carbohydrate, 47.4 g fat, 5 g fiber, 54 g protein.

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