Healthy living is all about balance. While I was staying in Dublin I fell happily into a balanced lifestyle. My feet provided the majority of my transportation and anything I acquired along the way I had to carry home in my backpack. The foods I ate were higher in fat but far less processed than my American diet had been. Without a microwave or a large freezer I generally cooked meals from scratch. By living simply and simply living I lost weight and became healthier than ever before.
During my travels in Ireland, there were many miles that ended with a delicious meal. The number one item on the list of things I confirmed while traveling is – I will walk for food.
Simplified Lasagna Bolognese
Between creating and writing this recipe I had a chance to read a recent post by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. In the post, she lovingly details her 6-year quest to master a true Lasagna Bolognese. Her instructions are not only numbered by steps but by days and the end result is nothing less than stunning. My recipe takes a more slap-dash approach yielding a non-traditional lasagna that still manages to deliver a mouthful of tender noodles, robust sauce, and a creamy finish. I also cut out about a bazillion calories with this impostor version. The recipe has several detailed steps but each one is fairly simple on its own. Take it to step by step to create a dish that should really impress a hungry crowd.
Modified Bolognese Sauce
- 2 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
- 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, shredded or finely diced
- 1 cup of shredded carrot
- 1 cup of shredded celery
- 2 cups of shredded summer or yellow squash
- 16 oz of ground chicken, crumbled
- 1/3 cup dry wine or sherry
- 2 tsp Italian herb blend
- salt and pepper
- Shred carrots, celery, and squash using a food processor or a grater. Place veggies in a microwave safe dish and microwave uncovered on high for 8-10 minutes. Stir once while microwaving.
- While vegetables are in the microwave – Simmer tomatoes and tomato paste in a pot 4 quarts or larger.
- Shred onion and garlic cloves and add to simmering tomatoes.
- In a large saute pan over medium high heat, begin cooking the chicken. While cooking break into small pieces and season with herb blend, peper, and a pinch of salt.
- Carefully remove from vegetables microwave and drain water using a strainer. Set strainer aside so veggies may continue to drain.
- Once chicken is cooked through add drained vegetables and stir gently to combine. Add wine and allow about 1/2 of the remaining moisture to cook away.
- Add cooked chicken and vegetables to simmering tomatoes, garlic, and onion. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired.
At this point the sauce may continue to simmer for as long as desired or remove and cool to make the final lasagna the next day.
Meatless Option – In place of the ground chicken consider sautéing a few cups of diced zucchini, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, or use an equal amount of MorningStar Farms Veggie Meal Starter. – may effect the nutritional values.
Lightened Bechamel Sauce
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 TB smart balance or light butter alternative
- 3 TB all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups of fat free milk
- salt and pepper
- In a small sauce pan over medium heat – melt the oil and smart balance together.
- Whisk in the flour and allow to toast a bit on the heat so that it cooks just a little.
- Remove from the direct heat and slowly whisk in the milk being careful to stir away any lumps.
- Set pan back over the heat and continue to whisk gently. As the sauce slowly heats it will thicken significantly be careful not to let it boil.
- When sauce has thickened reduce heat to lo and continue to stir occasionally until ready to use. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- The result should be a creamy sauce with a mild flavor. – Traditional Bechamel includes nutmeg. I am not a fan but Mr. Second Helpings enjoys the unique flavor it adds to the sauce. If you would like to include nutmeg add 1 tsp with the salt and pepper.
Approximate Nutrition for 1/12 of Bechamel Sauce: 51 calories; 3g fat; 4g carbs; 0g fiber; 2g protein; 1 PP
Assembling The Lasagna!
By this point you may be feeling less like Julia Child and more like the plate spinner at the circus. Hang in there for a little longer this is the home stretch and the result will be worth the effort!
- 9 whole grain lasagna noodles cooked just under al dente or 1 to 2 minutes less than the instruction on the box.
- 2 – 3 cups of washed and dried baby spinach leaves
- 2 cups of shredded part skim mozzarella cheese.
- Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
- With all the ingredients assembled and within easy reach begin layering the lasagna in 13 x 9 baking dish.
- Spread a layer of sauce over the entire botom of the dish.
- Lay down three noodles – a thicker layer of sauce – enough spinach to cover the pan (2 -3 handfuls) – sprinkle half of the cheese over the spinach.
- Lay down another three noodles – a thick layer of sauce – three more noodles
- At this point the dish should be almost completely full. Carefully pour the Bechamel over the entire lasagna so it oozes into all the nooks and crannies.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and place into the hot oven for about 30 minutes. If needed, slide a cookie sheet on to the rack below the lasagna to catch any sauce that may bubble over.
- Remove when the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling.
- Allow to rest for 10-20 minutes prior to serving.
Makes 12 servings.
Approximate Nutrition for Lasagna without Bechamel Sauce: 228.6 calories; 5.6g fat; 25.3g carbs; 4.8g fiber; 16.8g protein; 6 PP
To sort out the steps and cooking time for the final dish I referenced a recipe published on the Barilla Pasta website. The Bechamel Recipe is very similar to the white sauce my mother made when I was growing up. The specific amounts come from a recipe published by lubbys442, a member of Weight Watcher’s.com