Sometimes, during the never-ending days of winter, when longing thoughts of spring are entering our minds more and more often as we hear the cold rain beating against the windows and the even colder wind blowing through the trees, we begin to think we’ll never see the sunshine again. On days like those the only answer to the question, “What’s for dinner?” has to be comfort food. Hot, steamy, rich, delicious comfort food that everyone in the family will love.
While we all have our own ideas of what comfort food means to us, one thing I am pretty sure we can all agree on is that lasagna definitely fits the bill. Am I right?
In fact, I think lasagna might be the epitome of comfort food. (And I’m not even a big pasta fan. Or mozzarella fan.)
But, can lasagna fit into a healthy diet and lifestyle?
Well, of course, as most things can, in moderation. But with a few simple substitutions, lasagna can be taken from a super rich, heavy, high calorie and high fat indulgence to something a bit more friendly to your waistline. Or your thighs (as in my case). This way you can enjoy it a little more often and not have to spend three hours on the treadmill to make up for it.
There are a few things this meal isn’t:
This isn’t a spa meal, don’t get me wrong. But compared to it’s traditional version, it is much improved, in more ways than one.
This isn’t a meal you want to plan for a busy night when you need to get dinner on the table quickly, either.
What this meal is:
Delicious. Satisfying. Flavorful. Nutritious. Comforting.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 75 minutes
Ingredients (Makes 8 servings)
- 1/2 cups lentils, washed
- 1 1/5 cups water
- 2 tsp oil
- 1/2 cup onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 (16 oz.) can tomatoes, diced
- 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
- 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp basil
- 2 cups butternut squash, diced and roasted (or other veggie of choice), optional
- 2 cups non fat cottage cheese
- 8 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/8 cup parmesan cheese
- 9 lasagna noodles (I used rice pasta to make it gluten free)
Bring lentils to boil in water. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside.
Saute onion and garlic in oil. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, oregano, basil, lentils, and veggies (if using). Cover and simmmer 15 minutes.
Blend cottage cheese in blender or food processor (immersion blender works great for this!) until smooth and creamy.
Grate mozzarella cheese. Set both aside.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.
In a greased 9 x 13″ pan, make 3 layers of noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella (on bottom and top layer only), lentil/tomato sauce, finishing with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top.
Cover with foil and bake in a 350* oven 30-40 minutes. If needed, remove foil and broil for a few minutes until cheese on top is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Even though it’s been over a year since I’ve made a lasagna, this is my go-to recipe for it. I’ve been making this recipe for many years, and most people that try it (vegetarians and meat-eaters alike) really enjoy it. Several of my family members (non-vegetarians) even request it.
This was my first time adding roasted butternut squash to the sauce, and I have to say, it was a brilliant addition. The sweetness of the squash lends a whole new dimension to the flavor of the entire dish. It also adds more fiber and a ton of nutrients. You could substitute other veggies here if you like, or you could omit them altogether and serve a veggie on the side.
Want to hear one of my secrets for reducing the fat of regular lasagna?
Replace the meat in the sauce with lentils. You still get the protein and substance, but you leave out the hormones, the saturated fat and the suffering. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Another secret? Replace the ricotta cheese with nonfat cottage cheese that has been blended to a smooth consistency. (Reason #472 I love my immersion blender: Not having to use or clean the food processor for this task!) You still get the creamy cheesiness, but with a fraction of the calories and no added fat. Plus, to me it just tastes way better than ricotta.
Another trick I use is to only put a thin layer of mozzarella on the bottom and top layers and none in the middle layer. It’s still plenty cheesy, and but less so, in a good way.
By sprinkling a little parmesan cheese on the top, even more flavor is added, less mozzarella is needed, and more calories and fat are eliminated.
I’m already feeling better about winter, aren’t you?
My thighs are feeling better too. Shorts weather will be arriving soon.
But lightening up lasagna is a great idea any time of year.