Baking & cooking with an enthusiastic amateur
I’m passionate about cooking, but I still consider myself an amateur. Accordingly, nothing makes me more nervous than cooking for someone who has more experience in the kitchen! I have one friend who had me over to his house for dinner a couple of times, and I finally had an opportunity this week to invite him over and return the favor. Everything he’d made for me in the past was delicious, even a deceptively simple grilled cheese! Therefore, when he was coming over here, I wanted to make something that was both delicious and manageable, something that would look and taste good, but not get me in over my head.
While homemade lasagna costs about the same as store-bought ($16 for a big tray), it has fewer calories per slice, and you have the advantage of knowing exactly what goes into it. It’s easy to control how much salt, cheese, meat, and veggie goes into your meal. You can also control the amount of fat. I used lowfat and nonfat cheeses and ground turkey instead of ground beef to reduce the saturated fat per serving. When spiced up and used in a lasagna, regular ground turkey is just as tasty, if a little bit different, and has half the amount of fat and calories as 80% lean ground beef. Using extra lean ground turkey would reduce the calories and fat even more, though it is more expensive.
The end result is easy to star in a homemade Italian meal, or be served to a group of friends at a small party. Given how many servings it makes, the cost is quite reasonable, and the flavor is superb. It’s perfect for times when you don’t want to be in the kitchen up until the moment guests arrive; you have nearly an hour of cooking time at the end of the recipe, giving you plenty of time to clean up or get other dishes ready.
And besides, who doesn’t love lasagna?
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small (not baby) carrots, grated
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp crushed anise
1/2 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella
15 oz fat free ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
A few sprigs of fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 box no-boil-necessary lasagna noodles
Warm olive oil in a nonstick saucepan to medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes or until softened and slightly cooked down. Add garlic and carrot; saute for another 1-2 minutes. Add both cans of tomato, salt, pepper, basil, and Italian seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour.
Heat a nonstick frying pan to medium heat. Add the turkey; sprinkle on the fennel and anise. Cook until the turkey is fully done (no longer pink). Turn the heat off and stir in one cup of sauce.
In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, egg, and parsley. Add salt & pepper if desired.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Take a large lasagna pan. Spoon 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of the pan. Next, put down one layer of noodles, followed by another 1/2 cup of sauce, evenly distributed. Add a layer of half the turkey, followed by half of the ricotta mixture. Then spoon over 1/2 cup of sauce; add another layer of noodles. Again, place down 1/2 cup of sauce followed by the rest of the turkey and the rest of the ricotta mixture. Finish with a layer of noodles and then the rest of the sauce. You may not use all of the noodles; this is ok!
Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil; let the lasagna sit for 10 minutes. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil. Increase the heat to 450 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let sit five minutes before cutting into it to serve.
Makes twelve servings.
Cost per serving: $1.36
Calories per serving: 315