Soul-warming homemade lasagna so full of gooey cheese and hearty meat sauce, you'd never guess it was lightened up!
It's meaty, it's cheesy, it's chock-full of goodness that just makes you feel so warm and fuzzy...it's LASAGNA!
This recipe came from America's Test Kitchen's "The Best Light Recipe" cookbook (with a couple tiny modifications), and I'm seriously not kidding when I say you would NEVER know it was a lightened up recipe.
We made this for dinner last Saturday when my parents were visiting and there were so many yummy noises! The sauce is so hearty, meaty, and full of flavor, the noodles are cooked so perfectly they taste like fresh pasta, and the cheese is creamy, gooey and let's be honest - the crowning glory of a good lasagna.
The main strategies for lightening up the recipe were to replace the traditional meat choice of beef or pork with lean ground turkey, to use part-skim cheeses, and reduce the overall amount of cheese in the dish. Plus, a lot of jarred marinara sauces have added sugar, and by making your own sauce you get to control the ingredients (we don't need no stinkin' sugar)! Even though the amount of cheese is slightly reduced to lighten it up, it's still packed with gooey goodness. And I really couldn't believe how good the no-boil noodles were - I actually like them better than traditional pasta noodles!
I'm going to be real with you - this lasagna takes some time. But it is so worth it. Simmering the sauce low and slow develops so much flavor that your biggest problem with making this dish will be not devouring all of the sauce while it's cooking away. (I seriously think I ate about half a cup of sauce just "taste-testing" it while it cooked, I had to force myself to stop so I didn't run out of sauce for the lasagna!) I also think there is something kind of wonderful and soothing about slowly simmering a big pot of sauce on the stove and building layers of flavor while filling your house with amazing smells. I just feel like you really appreciate the dish more when you know how much love went into it.
Worthwhile side note here - when deciding between traditional or no-boil, you want to stick with the type of noodle the recipe specifies, because no-boil noodles will soak up a little more liquid than traditional so it will affect the outcome (read: sauciness level) of the finished product.
I feel as though I need to return to my prior point about the amount of yummy noises that were made while we ate this. We had it with some of my mom's yummy homemade garlic bread and a fresh green salad and it was a pretty freaking fantastic meal. It was a symphony of yummy noises - we all seriously could not stop talking about how good it was.
And the leftovers? Omg...even better - if that's even possible. But it is because they were.
Lighter Meat and Cheese Lasagna, my friends. Yummy noises await you!
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- 6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
- Pepper, to taste
- 15 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese
- 12 oz. part-skim 2% mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
- 1 1/4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese, divided (about 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
Heat the oil in a very large skillet (large enough to comfortably hold all of the sauce ingredients) over medium-low heat. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp salt, cover and cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 more seconds. Stir in half of the ground turkey and crumble and cook until the meat is no longer pink, but not browned - about 4 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes (with juices), chicken broth, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until sauce is thickened.
Stir the remaining turkey into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 more minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, stir in the basil, and add salt & pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375 with an oven rack in the middle position. Mix the ricotta, 8 oz (about 2 cups) of the mozzarella, 1 oz (1/2 cup) of the Parmesan, egg, and 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.
Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray. Spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish.
Lay 3 lasagna noodles spaced evenly apart on top of the sauce. Don't worry if there seems to be extra room around the noodles, they expand a little while baking. Add 1/3 cup of cheese filling on top of each noodle and spread it out evenly with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Add 1 more cup of meat sauce and spread evenly. Repeat the noodle/cheese/meat sauce layering 2 more times (you will have used 9 of your 12 noodles at this point.)
Lay the remaining 3 noodles on top and spread the remaining sauce (there should be about 1 1/2 cups left) over the noodles, making sure to cover the edges. (You want to cover the edges because if they bake without sauce over the top, they get very tough and chewy.) Cover the lasagna tightly with foil.
Place the dish of lasagna on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. (As I mentioned, the noodles expand a little while baking so using the rimmed baking sheet helps prevent spillage on the bottom of your oven - odds are it won't spill over, but if it does you'll be very glad you did this! If it doesn't, pan is still clean - win-win!)
Remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining 4 oz (1 cup) of mozzarella and 1/4 oz (2 Tbsp) of Parmesan over the top. Bake uncovered until the cheese is melted and slightly bubbly/brown, another 10-15 minutes. If you want the cheese to be extra browned, pop it under the broiler for a minute or two, but really keep an eye on it...broilers move fast!
Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving to let the lasagna set up. (I know it's hard but be patient - if you cut into it right away, you'll have a soupy mess!) Enjoy with a green salad and/or garlic bread!
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen, The Best Light Recipe