Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mama's Lasagna

This is my mama's lasagna. Our family grew up with this as one of our favorite dinners, and it continued to be one of my favorite comfort foods to cook when I went away to college. Now, it is one of Peter's favorites that I get to cook for him! I have only made a few minor alterations to the original version I was given. My mom and my dad are VERY different when it comes to their food preferences. My mom enjoys healthier foods, and my dad prefers the 'fully-leaded' versions. However, this lasagna is the PERFECT balance. Mom figured out how to make some easy, healthy substitutions that taste great, and Papa still gets his meaty, cheesy, delicious lasagna. 


  • 1/2 lb (1/2 16 oz. box) Lasagna Noodles (you can use whole wheat pasta to make it even healthier), cooked & drained
  • 1 lb lean ground Turkey (instead of red meat)
  • 16 oz. shredded Mozzarella Cheese (low moisture- part skim for lower fat content)
  • 16 oz. fat free Cottage Cheese (instead of ricotta-- if you're not a cottage cheese fan, DON'T WORRY- this does not taste like cottage cheese and you won't even know it's there! For proof, Peter can't stand cottage cheese, but loves this lasagna.)
  • 2 eggs (remove one or both yolks to reduce cholesterol)
  • 1 jar of Red Sauce, or 1 batch of homemade pasta sauce
  • Parmesan Cheese for topping (about 3/4 cup)

**Nutrition Noteworthy: Among cheeses, part-skim mozzarella, nonfat cottage cheese and parmesan cheese rank as some of the best for being lowest in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Part-skim mozzarella and parmesan also rank fairly high for their calcium levels. However, all cheeses are generally high in sodium, so proceed with caution (especially if you have high blood pressure, heart conditions, or compromised kidney function.)

While your noodles are boiling, brown your ground turkey in some extra virgin olive oil.

When the meat is browned and cooked through, add the red sauce and let simmer. (optional: I also added 2 chopped zucchinis and a couple good handfuls of spinach leaves into the sauce as well. It may look like a LOT of spinach, but it will wilt down to nothing in the sauce. This is a great way to sneak in some veggies for your picky eaters.) Stir all together and let simmer over medium-low heat.
**Nutrition Noteworthy: Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse; it is a GREAT source of Iron, Calcium, Vitamins C & A, and Folic Acid... in addition to many other vitamins and health benefits. 

See how much the veggies have reduced!

 While your sauce is simmering, mix together the cheesy filling: Cottage cheese, mozzarella, and the 2 eggs.

Helpful Hint: Spread some of the red sauce and/or some extra oil on the bottom of the pan before you start layering, or else the noodles on the bottom will bake hard onto your pan, and it won't scoop out nicely.

Then drain your cooked noodles and start layering your ingredients as follows: 

  1. Noodles
  2. 1/2 of cheesy mixture
  3. Noodles
  4. 1/2 of red sauce
  5. other 1/2 of cheesy mixture
  6. Noodles
  7. other 1/2 of red sauce
  8. Top with parmesan

 Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes or until it is heated all the way through and the parmesan is golden and bubbly on top.
Also, let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before you try to cut in to it. This will let it firm and set up. Otherwise you will try to serve it onto a plate and it will run apart kind of soupy. Trust me, it will still be hot, but it will look much nicer for serving if you do wait a few minutes.

Leftovers pack easily, and reheat well in containers to take to the office for lunch.
It also freezes well; I like to cut leftovers into individual serving sizes and freeze the portions in ziplock baggies. Then, if Peter is home alone, or if I don't have time to make dinner, there is always some homemade lasagna ready to step up to the plate!

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