Healthy updates to old favorite recipes have been on my mind lately. It is the time of year to figure out what to do with all that zucchini, and how to add in fresh herbs. Of course, I want to prepare healthy meals using ingredients in season with a minimum of time and effort, but they still have to be family friendly without leaving me wilted in the corner of the kitchen.
Satisfying and easy to serve, lasagna has been a family favorite dish – not just for everyday, but also for easy entertaining and shared potlucks. Lasagne itself is a wide, flat pasta, probably one of the oldest and best known. The word “lasagne” is in the plural form, meaning more than one piece of lasagna ribbon. But here, zucchini slices stand in for the pasta. The “layers” are made of thin lengthwise slices of zucchini that need to be dried. To do that fifteen minutes in a 350°F. oven does the trick. If you feel adventurous, you might add other fresh veggies to the ground turkey and tomato sauce, or handfuls of fresh herbs. I decided to use chopped artichoke hearts because I had them in the freezer, and they added and texture. Fresh garden carrots, shredded (about a cupful or two), or chopped fresh spinach, peas or string beans would be good, too. I just didn’t have anything like that yet in my wimpy, late-summer garden!
To reduce the excess moisture, you roast the zucchini strips so actually, this is a no-lasagne lasagna making it a gluten-free casserole. Then, we flavor the tomato sauce with fresh herbs. Low fat ricotta and Parmesan add to the creamy filling. Mushrooms and artichoke hearts raise the flavor level.
2 to 3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4″ thick lengthwise
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 pound package of ground turkey breast
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped, about 3/4 cup
One 15-ounce tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
15-ounce tub part-skim ricotta
1 large egg
1 package (9 ounces) artichoke hearts, cooked according to package directions, chopped (optional)
16 ounces part-skin mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the sliced zucchini strips on two cookie sheets and bake for 15 minutes to remove dry out (they do not get crisp).
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil; add the turkey and cook about 5 minutes until no longer pink. Add the garlic and onions and cook 8 to 10 minutes until onions are softened. Add tomato sauce, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Simmer on lowest for at least 30-40 minutes, covered. Do not add extra water, the sauce should be thick.
In a medium bowl mix ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, egg and artichoke hearts, if used.
Lightly grease a 9×12 casserole spread some of the turkey mixture evenly over the bottom. Top with half of the zucchini slices, spaced evenly. Then spread with half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese and repeat the process until all your ingredients are used up. Finally, top with remaining turkey mixture and mozzarella, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and cover with foil so that the foil does not touch the food.
Bake 45 minutes covered, at 375°F. then uncovered 15 minutes. Let stand about 5 – 10 minutes before serving. Cut into squares to serve.
Makes 9 to 12 servings.
Food writer Beatrice Ojakangas grew up as the oldest of ten on a farm in Floodwood, Minnesota and learned to cook and bake on a woodstove. Author of 31 cookbooks, Beatrice has a degree in home economics, has been inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota, has written for magazines such as Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and Woman’s Day, and appeared on the television shows of both Julia Child and Martha Stewart. Her specialties include baking, Finnish and Scandinavian cooking, and writing well-tested, simple recipes that use wholesome ingredients. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.