You’ll never guess the secret to this lasagna

  • Mon Mar 8th, 2010 7:37pm
  • Life

Judyrae Kruse The Forum

Sometimes you can successfully and yet deliciously lop off some of the fat and calories in the something or other called for in this or that, and sometimes you flat-out can’t.

Which is pretty much what Richard Swanson of Waterford, Conn., discovered when he first set out to redesign lasagna to make it a better personal fit.

As he tells it, “Believe it or not, I’m not a huge lasagna fan. Every time I have it, it seems like it’s overloaded with the ricotta filling and it glops out the sides and collapses.

“When I was dreaming up this recipe for secret switcheroo lasagna, I wanted to reduce the amount of ricotta, but still have it be cheesy and delicious.

“My solution was to make a ricotta mix with pureed white beans. The inspiration came from hummus, which has a creamy texture but plenty of body. The half ricotta/half bean mixture was just right. While I was at it, I replaced half of the beef with minced baby bella mushrooms, which added no fat, but plenty of meaty flavor.

“I tried to use nonfat mozzarella and Parmesan to further reduce calories and fat, but that just wasn’t happening. Too gummy and weird- tasting. Also, I stuck with a jar of marinara sauce to make this easier to prepare.’’

Once Swanson had it whipped into shape, “I tested this recipe out on my co-workers,’’ he says, “only telling them that it was a reduced-fat lasagna. And when it was cooled for 10 minutes, it cut into perfect portions. I got a few e-mails back from my testers and none of them could tell there were beans or mushrooms in it at all. They all said it was excellent. Success!’’

Ah, but that was only Swanson’s first taste of culinary triumph. He and his recipe went on, you see, to win the $5,000 grand prize in the recent CorningWare SimplyLite Bakeware Contest. (This competition called for original, low-fat, low-calorie “lite’’ baking recipes, either sweet or savory.)

So here we go with Swanson’s recipe for:

Secret switcheroo lasagna

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1medium onion, chopped

8ounces fresh baby portabella mushrooms, finely chopped

4cloves garlic, crushed

1can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce

1can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

11/2cups part nonfat ricotta cheese

1egg

11/4cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided

2cups shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese, divided

11/2 tablespoons dried basil

1pack (12 ounces) oven-ready lasagna noodles

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown and crumble the ground beef in a dry Dutch oven over medium-high heat. As the beef starts to brown and release liquid, add the onion and cook until translucent. Then add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, until the mixture starts to look dry, stirring occasionally. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir to deglaze the pan, and then stir in the jar of marinara sauce. Lower heat and cook, uncovered, at a low simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the beans in a food processor and grind them for 1 minute, until pureed. Add the ricotta, egg, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the basil and process until fully mixed and creamy. Remove bowl from processor and set aside.

Prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking pan by spooning 1/2 cup of the meat sauce into the bottom and spreading it around. Place three of the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan and spread 1 cup of the ricotta mixture on top of them. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the mozzarella on top of that and then spread 11/2 cups of the meat sauce over that. Repeat these steps twice and top with the remaining three noodles. Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the top, sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan on top of the sauce.

Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for 15 minutes and then remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes, until the cheese is slightly browned. Remove pan from oven and let lasagna set for 10 minutes.

Cut into 10 servings and serve. Enjoy!

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