Red Turkey Lasagna

I have a confession to make…. I love lasagna.  Rarely will I order it in a restaurant because I know that I love the taste of this recipe and can’t imagine ordering something *out* that I can make myself.  I’m sure that there are tons of variations on this recipe… with or without meat, red sauce vs white sauce, cooked noodles vs the no-bake noodles… but this is my favorite “go to” recipe to use if I’m being honest.  It originally came from a Weight Watchers cookbook but, as with most anything I make, it’s been altered and adjusted to fit our unique tastes.  Here’s how I make it:RedTurkeyLasagna (1)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • Dry red wine, about 1/2-3/4 cup
  • Spinach leaves (I used about 1 1/2 cups and sliced them fairly thin)
  • 1 large can pasta sauce (use your favorite… I like a basic meat sauce)
  • 1 16-oz container of low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Italian seasoning (1 teaspoon or so… I simply shake it on until it “looks right”)
  • freshly grated nutmeg (don’t go crazy on this… you just want a hint)
  • 1 package lasagna noodles (you won’t use the entire package… I typically use about 9 or 10)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Spray large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium high setting.  Brown ground turkey, using a potato masher to break up the meat into small pieces.  NOTE:This is the BEST way to brown meat, in my humble opinion. Add onion and red wine to the meat and cook until the wine is thoroughly incorporated.  Add spinach (or any other vegetables you care to add), cook until spinach wilts, then add pasta sauce and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Boil noodles, as directed on package, or immerse them in boiling water until softened.  Drain and set aside.
  • Combine the ricotta, mozzarella, egg whites, Italian seasoning, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Begin to layer your lasagna together. NOTE: I used a 9×9 pan and a 9×3 pan – normally, I’d simply use a single 9×13 pan.  This is where your noodle amounts may vary.  I used 11-12 noodles to cover these two pans, but the rest of the ingredients remained the same.  I also vary the direction of the noodle placement with each subsequent layer so the finished lasagna holds together well.  
  • Start by spooning a bit of the sauce to lightly cover the bottom of your pan(s). Place noodles over the bottom in a single layer.  Top with 1/3 sauce mixture, then dollop half of the cheese mixture over the sauce.  Repeat noodle, sauce, and cheese layers.  Top with noodles and final third of the sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan.  NOTE: If making ahead or freezing lasagna, this is the place to stop.  Cover with foil and pop in fridge or freezer, then allow dish to thaw overnight before continuing.
  • Cover and bake lasagna for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake until lasagna is bubbling and cheese is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and allow the lasagna to set for 5 minutes before serving.

As I mentioned, this is my favorite lasagna recipe.  Not only is it easy to make, it has delicious flavor and is a simple way of getting vegetables into your meal without much effort.  I like to add a side of garlic toasts to accompany this dish.

NOTE: To make garlic toasts, I start with a roll from the freezer (Ciabatta rolls work well for this, as do sub rolls).  Slice the frozen roll into bite sized slices and lay them on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spray the slices with cooking spray and sprinkle with garlic salt.  When you remove the lasagna from the oven, turn oven off and pop the baking sheet into the hot oven.  The toasts will crisp as the oven cools and be ready to eat by the time you finish plating the lasagna.  I put the garlic toasts into a wooden serving bowl and pitch the foil… no messy cleanup!

I hope you’ll try this lasagna recipe sometime… it makes an amazing dinner and is always appreciated by my neighbors if I am able to share.  Enjoy!

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Recipe: Meritage Mock Lasagna

I was craving something Italian last night for dinner, but needed to come up with something that would be do-able in our current apartment situation.  Going to the store and purchasing all the individual ingredients for a delicious lasagna sounded wonderful, but the reality is that I brought tons of spaghetti noodles with us in the move (they didn’t fit as well into Ziploc storage bags).  I also didn’t want to have extra foods around that might spoil, so I came up with a simpler plan.  I utilized the salad bar at the local Fresh Market next to our apartment building.

After an extended afternoon (which included another trip to the leasing office to replace the “new” garage gate remote), I didn’t want to waste a lot of time trying to make a full-on lasagna.  Instead, I used quicker cooking spaghetti noodles (broken into thirds) and some delectable James River Cellars Meritage to create our dinner for last night.  Here’s how things came together.MeritageMockLasagna

I diced the peppers (from the salad bar) and added half an onion into a stock pot with touch of olive oil to saute everything together.  I added one package of ground turkey and browned everything well before adding a healthy dose of James River Cellars Meritage red table wine.  NOTE: By using the words “red table wine”, a winery doesn’t have to post the exact percentage of alcohol in the wine… if the words “red wine” are used, the wine must by law share the exact percentage of alcohol.  Interesting, huh?

Once the base of the sauce was well cooked, I added one large can of crushed tomatoes and a spoonful of tomato paste.  After combining everything (and adding another pour of wine), I added a handful of dry spaghetti noodles, carefully breaking the strands into thirds, and allowed it to cook until the spaghetti was al dente (“to the tooth”).  At this point, I could have served dinner as a version of mazetti, but I was craving more of a lasagna-style flavor, so I kept cooking.

To turn this yummy pot of food into something that resembled lasagna, I simply added three spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Once mixed together, the cheese added a creaminess to the sauce and bumped up the flavor to a “lasagna-esque” taste that made me happy.  I added some garlic toasts to complete a wonderful, meal.

This is definitely something that it pretty simple to personalize to suit each family’s particular taste preferences.  Feel free to try it on your own… we loved it!

Recipe: Vegetarian Lasagna

Don’t let the title of this recipe fool you into not trying it…. my older son just found out that his favorite lasagna recipe was actually good for him and he was not pleased.  He’s a true meat-and-potatoes kind of guy who only eats vegetables if they are expected of him… I don’t think he’s ever intentionally chosen to eat vegetables… but he loved this lasagna, which speaks volumes to it’s ability to turn heads and make believers out of meat-eaters.

Here’s how I made this delicious lasagna:VegetarianLasagna

“Meat” layer:

  • 1 package Boca crumbles
  • 1 cup Cabernet Franc
  • 2 ½ c marinara (plus ¼ cup + ½ cup marinara reserved – total needed 3 ¼ cups)

Cheese layer:

  • 1 package part-skim ricotta
  • 1 ½ c mozzarella
  • 1 egg, whipped slightly
  • Nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste
  • Lasagna noodles (not cooked)
  • Parmesan (to sprinkle on top)

I started by making the “meat layer”.  In a medium bowl, mix the Boca Crumbles (see photo for package), marinara (in this case I used much of a Meritage Marinara that I had made earlier in the week), and James River Cellars Cabernet Franc red wine.  You want to make this part of the recipe fairly “wet” since you’re not cooking the noodles.

In a separate bowl, mix your “cheese layer” ingredients together.   Fresh nutmeg is key in this and you don’t need much… just a few sprinkles will do the trick – it adds a back note that is really lovely.

Now you’re going to layer your lasagna in a 9×9 pan. Start with your ¼ c reserved marinara,then add noodles, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, noodles, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, noodles, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, noodles, ½ cup reserved marinara, and finally top with Parmesan.  I find it extremely helpful to turn the direction of the noodles at each layer so the lasagna cuts nicely.  Lay the first layer vertically in the pan, the second layer would then be placed horizontally the third layer would again be vertical so the final layer lays horizontal in the pan. Note: Your noodles will be longer than your pan – just break the noodles and use any pieces that aren’t the same length in the center and keep the longer pieces along the edges.

The last step is to bake your lasagna for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees, until bubbly and cooked through.  Let set for 5 minutes before serving so the lasagna has time to let everything “pull back together” and cut beautifully.   I find that turning the noodles’ direction is key in being able to serve a nicely “square” piece of lasagna.

I hope you find this lasagna to be something that your entire family will enjoy… I also find that if I add a piece of garlic bread or Texas Toast, my guys are even happier.   

Buon Divertimento… Have Fun!