Meat and Vegetable Lasagna – Created September 4, 2009
I asked my b-chan if he would like to have something different for Friday dinner, (I’ve been trying to save money by eating in and I like having control over what goes into my meals) and he suggested lasagna. I’ve watched my mom make lasagna countless times and I love the result, but I had never attempted to make on myself, so I took this as a sort of personal cooking challenge. I wanted to not just make my first lasagna, I wanted it to be a recipe of my own devising.
Based on the different lasagnas I have tried in the past, I picked my favorite ingredients and a few of my own choosing—flavors that I felt would go well together and enhance the simplicity of the usual layers. I also wanted it to be “lighter” than the ones I’ve tried in the past. Obviously, a dish that comes in layers will never be light, but I tried to balance it a bit. I also wanted to make it smaller than the giant 9” x 13” casserole that my mom usually makes, so I used an 8” x 8” dish so that it could be divided into 9 modest portions (enough for seconds for four people). I reduced some of the fat content by using lean ground beef and fat free Ricotta cheese (ground turkey or chicken can be substituted for lighter options, but I was serving a meat-loving crowd).
I wrote the steps down as I prepared the meal, but the measurements are approximations as I usually combine ingredients based on visual measurements (meaning I just toss things in according to my own taste). I’m not as brave with baking—I don’t want to end up with gigantic cookies or flat cake—but I feel more experimental with meals.
Continue reading for the recipe and images.
This experiment yielded 9 modest portions, or 4 large portions. It was prepared in an 8” x 8” casserole dish.
For the meat filling
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- ½ cup tomato sauce (I used Spanish style tomato sauce)
- ½ head of garlic, chopped.
- ½ medium-sized red onion, chopped.
- Approx. 1 tbsp olive oil
- Oregano (to taste)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Salt (to taste)
- About ¼ cup dry white cooking wine
For the lasagna
- Barilla no-bake lasagna sheets
- Newman’s Own Marinara sauce
- Sorrento Fat Free Ricotta cheese
- Five Cheese Italian blend shredded cheese
- 1 medium-sized yellow squash, sliced.
- 1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced.
- About ½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered.
- About ¼ cup sliced olives (I used stuffed green olives, but any will do)
- About ½ cup Baby portabella mushrooms (I would have added this, but my grandma doesn’t eat mushrooms).
Mix the onions, garlic, tomato sauce, wine, and olive oil in a pot. Add salt, pepper, and oregano to taste. Allow these to simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat (this will be the base for your meat filling). Add the ground beef and cook on low to medium heat (I like to let it slow cook for about 15-20 minutes, then I add more heat to cook it thoroughly).
To prepare the lasagna, add about ½ a cup of Marinara sauce to the bottom of the baking dish. Layer the lasagna sheets, allowing for a bit of overlap. Layer the meat (I like to add it when it is cooked medium-well), olives, tomatoes, and mushrooms (optional). Add ½ to ¾ cup of Ricotta cheese, dollop evenly. Layer lasagna sheets. Layer the remainder of the meat, followed by slices of zucchini and squash. Spread about ¼ to ½ cup marinara sauce (depends on how saucy you like your lasagna). Sprinkle 1 to 1 ½ cups five cheese blend.
Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the cheese is nicely melted and browned.
Note: I prepared this in a small convection oven, so heating times may vary. The Barilla box recommends 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes. I set it on the convection setting for 30 minutes, then set it to bake for the remainder of the time.
Next time, I will prepare it in our regular oven and compare the time required for it to bake.
Between prep time, cooking, and baking, it took about three hours for the finished product to be complete. The veggies were nice and crisp, and the cheese was melted to a golden brown. It’s a bit meaty, but more layers can be added if you reduce the beef. I like the cheese to melt on the meat, but more lasagna can be added if you prefer pasta for the final layer.
This is what the process looked like…