The other day my good friend, Michelle, and I were talking about how I take favorite comfort foods and remake them so that they are healthier and family members don’t feel so “cheated” when you feed them. Some palettes have a harder time adjusting to healthier foods and I thought that this is one of the easiest dishes to make healthier and most people won’t even notice you’ve changed the ingredients! So get your ingredients together and let’s make lasagna!
There are many ways to make lasagna healthier like adding spinach, using low fat or fat free cheese or replacing some of the cheese with tofu. You can also use gluten-free pasta if that is an issue in your family.
Since I didn’t have any fresh baby spinach left, I pulled out some I had in the freezer and cooked it over medium heat until it was thawed completely and added one small pinch of French Gray Sea Salt. Setting it aside to cool down a little here is the rest of the recipe:
pinch of French Gray Sea Salt
1 carton Fat Free Cottage Cheese
1 small carton Low Fat Ricotta or substitute with 1-2 blocks firm tofu, mashed with your fingers until it resembles the same texture as ricotta cheese.
1-1/2 jars of Marinara or your favorite spaghetti sauce (I have my own that I’ve made and frozen)
Block of Farmer’s Cheese
Block of Parmesan & Romano
I hand grate my cheese ~ about half the round of Farmer’s Cheese and just enough of the other to lightly coat the noodles and I get the fresh mozzarella from my local grocer’s olive bar. I get two of the large buffalo mozzarella balls and slice them.
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs chopped fine or your favorite Italian herbs (I use my own dried herb mix made from my organic garden – German Thyme, Sweet Basil, Greek Oregano)
1 fresh egg
Onion powder, garlic powder
In a large bowl, I combine the tofu/fat free cottage cheese, ricotta and egg. Mix together and pour in about 1/4 cup of the marinara, 1 heaping tsp. onion powder and garlic powder and a large pinch of herbs. This is where you would add finely diced onions, but since my hubby and onions don’t agree with each other, I compensate for the flavor with onion powder.
Add to the cheese mixture the warmed spinach and stir together until well mixed. (Other options would be thawed veggie burger like Morningstar Farms frozen burger crumbles, thawed vegetable mix of broccoli, cauliflower & carrots, ground turkey, etc.)
Once you have the cheese mixture ready, set it aside and get your baking dish ready. I do not pre-cook my noodles. It’s an extra step I have never liked, so all these years, I’ve just skipped it. The key is to have plenty of sauce and let it bake so that your noodles cook and are just past al dente.
Spray the baking dish with a non-stick spray and coat it well. Then pour some of your marinara sauce in the bottom of the pan, enough to cover the bottom. Layer your noodles and on top of that add your cheese/spinach mixture and spread evenly over the noodles. Top that with freshly ground black pepper and your shredded Farmer’s cheese, Parmesan & Romano cheeses. Pour a little more sauce over the top of that and add another layer of noodles. Repeat until you have used up all your mixture. Top off with a final layer of noodles and pour sauce over the top layer of noodles.
For the final finish, I use my hand shredder and put a fine layer of Parmesan & Romano followed by the sliced buffalo mozzarella. Arrange them in a grid pattern or just lay them whichever way you like. Top it off with freshly ground black pepper and a big pinch of herbs to make it pretty. Pop it into a pre-heated 350F degree oven and bake until bubbly.
Usually I bake mine about 45 minutes to an hour. But I am in the mountains and have found that I have to adjust my baking to compensate for the altitude. Once your dish is bubbly for at least 20 minutes or so, remove from the oven and let set. Serve while still warm and add a wonderful field green salad and fresh garlic bread for a complete and wonderful meal.
Since we couldn’t possibly eat all this at a meal, I usually portion out individual servings, wrap and freeze for use later. I’ve used tofu many times in place of ricotta cheese and my dinner guests never knew the difference. The key is to make sure you add some sauce to your “cheese mixture” and get plenty of onion and garlic flavor in there! I do not substitute the mozzarella. And always use the very best and freshest ingredients available. You can still enjoy lasagna and eat healthier! So invite your closest friends and family over and have a dinner party! Enjoy!