Last week we had family in town and I felt inspired to make a vegetarian dish that my husband appropriately named Mediterranean Garden lasagna due to of all the vegetables in the dish that are typically used in the Mediterranean region. Winter is not the same if I don’t make at least one lasagna, and this year, despite the warm weather we’re having in AZ, I managed to make two of them. This because the men in my family were calling out for la-sa-gna! la-sa-gna! La-sa-gna!
The thing about lasagna is that if you have a really really big pan, say 11.5 x 16, you can make a meal for about 16 people. Depending on how many times the relatives go back for a seconds you may have leftovers for another one or two meals. I know it’s time consuming to make a good lasagna. That’s true. But, consider that you won’t have to cook at least one other day, you’ll enjoy a wonderful meal, and you’ll get to reap the rewards of praise for the extra tasty dish you made. And if you have more lasagna left-over than you can eat you can just freeze it until a day comes along when you don’t feel like cooking—(yay, reserves!)
Some of my readers like to know the nutritional fact about the recipes that I make and post, so I have started to use the calculators on caloriecount.com and WeightWatchers.com to help my readers know if a dish is right for their diet. This information will always be posted at the bottom of each post. How about you? Is there something you would like to see on this blog? Perhaps you have a particular dish you would like to see me post? Leave a comment telling me.
- 2 boxes of lasagna noodles – I use the Barilla brand with the curly edges
- ½ large onion, chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing or spraying on the vegetables
- 1-1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- ½ pound fresh spinach, washed, stems discarded
- 1 pound zucchini
- ½ pound asparagus (See **notes; use an extra ½ pound of spinach if you don’t want asparagus)
- 4 red bell peppers, roasted (recipe follows)
- 1-1/4 pound 2% cottage cheese, or ricotta (the nutrition facts are figured with cottage cheese)
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- 3/4 pound part skim mozzarella cheese, grated
- 6 cups white sauce (recipe for béchamel sauce follows in procedures)
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 6 cups non-fat milk, or 2% milk
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup flour
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 400° F. Slice the red bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Line a jelly-roll pan, or a bar cookie pan with tin foil. You many need to join 2 sheets of foil together. Lightly spray the foil with olive oil, or brush the oil on. Arrange the peppers on the pan cut side down and bake for 25 minutes. After this time flip the peppers over and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the skin comes off easily. Remove them from the oven and place them in a plastic bag for 20 minutes. This will make it easier to peel them. After 20 minutes remove and discard the peels. Slice each ½ pepper into 2 or 3 pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot onions and cook them until they are nearly translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes, and then add the mushrooms and cook them until they have released their moisture and they are fully cooked. While the mushrooms are cooking you can start heat the grill for the zucchini.
- Slice the zucchini lengthwise and brush them lightly with olive oil, and then sprinkle them with a little salt. Arrange them on the grill and cook them until they have nice grill marks but they are still a little firm. Flip them over and continue cooking until you see the grill marks, but they are only three-quarters cooked. They will finish cooking in the lasagna.
- Wash the spinach and discard the stems. Place the spinach in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of water, and lightly salt it. Cover with the lid and cook until the spinach is cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. You will have to repeat this process at least one more time, even more times if you are omitting the asparagus and using twice as much spinach. When the spinach is thoroughly cooked rinse it under cold water and then squeeze the spinach into a ball making sure you have squeezed all the moisture out. Let the ball rest for 2 or 3 minutes and then squeeze again the get all the moisture out. Set the spinach aside.
- You can either steam or grill the lightly salted asparagus until it is three-quarters cooked and then cool it under cold water, or plunge it into an ice bath of water and ice. Set it aside when it is ready.
- Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and discard the shells. Add the cottage cheese and 5 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Stir well and set this aside.
- Heat the olive oil and the shallots to medium low heat in a large thick-bottomed saucepan and cook the shallots until they are translucent. Add the flour stirring it frequently, until it turns a golden sandy color, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Turn up the heat to medium and whisk in milk a little at a time. After all the milk has been added, drop in the bay leaf and continue whisking the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring often for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is medium thick and no longer tastes of gritty flour. Remove the bay leaf and season with the salt and nutmeg. Keep the sauce cover until you are ready to layer the lasagna.
- Bring 4 to 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Since you will be cooking nearly two boxes of noodles it’s best to cook them in 2 batches—18 noodles in each batch. Cook the noodles until they are about three-quarters of the way done. They will finish cooking in the oven. The cooking time on the stove top will take 6-7 minutes once the water comes to a boil. Place them on a tray and spray them lightly with olive oil so they don't stick together before you can get them into the pan.
- Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of an 11.5 x 16 inch pan
- 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, and then ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella, and ½ of the cooked spinach
- 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella and all the cooked mushrooms
- 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella the red bell peppers and the optional asparagus
- 7 lasagna noodles topped with 1 cup white sauce, ¼ the cottage cheese mixture, ¼ of the mozzarella and the remaining spinach
- 7 lasagna noodles topped with 2 cups white sauce sprinkled with 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese.
- Cover the lasagna with tin foil and place the lasagna on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake 35 minutes, remove the foil, and then bake another 25 minutes.
**Notes - If you decide to use asparagus please be advised that it can be a little tricky. Look for an asparagus bunch where the stalks are all of a similar length and circumference. You will pre-cook them until they are 3/4's done, but if they are of different sizes some may not be cooked to the right point and then they could be undercooked in the final product.
Weight Watchers Points: 14 points per serving and there are 16 servings.
(Points are calculated using the Weight Watcher’s Recipe Builder.)
This recipe is posted at at Hearth and Soul, SimpleSupperTuesday, Tuesdays Table, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Tuesday Talent Show, FreshFoodsWednesday, Food of the World, and Wonderfully Creative Wednesday