Classic Lasagna Recipe With A Twist Recipe

Do you know how hard it can sometimes be to get your kids to eat their veggies? And, for that matter, as long as we're being totally honest with ourselves here, you know how hard it can sometimes be to get yourself to eat your veggies? Recipe developer and food photographer Stephanie Rapone has arrived at the perfect solution in the form of this recipe for classic lasagna with a twist — where the "twist" is that it contains a whole lot of "stealth" vegetables. 

Nestled within this rich, classic, homestyle lasagna are two whole carrots and as many as two whole zucchini, not to mention the 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes that this recipe uses. That's instead of commercially prepared tomato sauce, which, depending on the brand, may include additives like sugar (via ABC News). But no one else has to know how healthy this dish is. That can be our little secret.

"Lots of kids don't love veggies," Rapone told Mashed, "but lots of kids love lasagna." This version is basically a secret vegetable delivery system. In addition, it swaps turkey sausage for the usual ground beef, which significantly cuts the amount of saturated fat per serving (via Healthline). 

Gather your ingredients for this classic lasagna with a twist

For this classic lasagna recipe with a twist, you're going to need classic lasagna noodles, which you'll soften with boiling water. You'll also need a lot of vegetables, namely half a yellow onion, two cloves of garlic, two medium carrots, one large or two medium zucchini, and a 28-ounce can of crushed Italian tomatoes. You'll season all that with dried basil, dried oregano, kosher salt, and, of course, Italian-style turkey sausage, which boasts its own array of seasonings (which can include fennel seeds, salt, pepper, parsley, dried onion, and garlic). 

For the cheese mixture, you'll need two cups of shredded mozzarella, a half cup of grated parmesan, two cups of ricotta, an egg, eight ounces of cream cheese, and fresh basil.

Otherwise, you'll need two tablespoons of olive oil, non-stick spray, and water for softening those lasagna noodles. Once you've gathered your ingredients together, you're just over an hour away from classic lasagna with a secret, healthy twist. 

Soften lasagna noodles in very hot water

Start by taking the cream cheese out of the refrigerator to allow it to soften and come to room temperature. Also, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Next, heat three to four cups of water to "very hot" (it need not boil). For her part, Rapone likes to heat her water in a tea kettle because that makes it easy to pour over the noodles, nine of which you'll place in a pan large enough to accommodate them. Pour the hot water over the noodles, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and let the water do its softening magic on the noodles while you do the rest of your prep.

Prep your "stealth" veggies for the twist

Start your veggie prep by washing your basil, zucchini, and carrots. Chop the basil finely and set it aside. Mince your garlic, chop your onion, and set those aside as well. 

Now, cut the ends off your carrots and zucchini. You can peel them next, although you definitely do not need to, especially considering that you're about to grate them. Remember that the idea is for them to not be particularly noticeable in the finished product. Using a box grater or the grating disc on a food processor, coarsely grate the carrots and zucchini.

Heat up the vegetables

In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat until it's just hot, but not yet smoking. Add the chopped onion and the kosher salt and stir. Once the onion begins to soften, which should take about three to five minutes, add the grated carrots and zucchini and stir to mix. Please note that garlic is left out of this step intentionally. That's because garlic cooks more quickly than any of these other vegetables and, therefore, adding it later reduces your risk of burning it. 

Continue stirring every two to three minutes while cooking until the mixture starts to brown and the zucchini has reduced in volume by about half. This whole process should take no more than 10 minutes. 

Time to brown the meat

While they're still cooking, push the veggies to the side and add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add the turkey sausage, breaking it up with a spatula as you begin incorporating the veggies back in. Continue cooking until the sausage is cooked through. If you want, you can use a paper towel and tongs to blog any excess liquid or fat from the skillet.

Add the garlic and stir to incorporate for one minute. Add the entire can of tomatoes (including the liquid), then the dried basil and oregano. Stir to incorporate, then reduce to medium-low and simmer while you prepare the cheese mixture. 

Prep the cheese mixture

For the cheese mixture, you're going to need a bowl that's big enough to accommodate around six cups of wet ingredients, plus room for mixing. Place one and a half cups of mozzarella cheese, half the parmesan cheese, all of the ricotta cheese, and all of the cream cheese in the bowl. Crack an egg over the mixture and add the fresh basil. Use a spatula to fold it all together until fully combined.

We know that cream cheese isn't typically an ingredient in classic lasagna recipes, but Rapone says that it cuts the ricotta's potentially grainy texture and lends a welcome creaminess to the finished product. 

Assemble your classic lasagna with a twist

Once you have both the meat sauce and cheese mixture ready, it's time to start assembling the lasagna. Start by removing the lasagna noodles from the water and placing them onto a clean kitchen towel. Let the noodles dry on one side for two to three minutes. Then, flip them over and allow the other side to dry for another two to three minutes. Meanwhile, spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Rapone recommends simply reusing the dish the noodles were softening in.

Spread about a quarter of the meat sauce into the bottom of the baking dish and top with three lasagna noodles. Gently spread half the cheese mixture, and add another quarter of the meat sauce. Layer another three noodles on top and repeat with the rest of the cheese mixture and another quarter of the meat sauce. Top with the last three noodles and then the remaining sauce and shredded mozzarella and parmesan

Pop the lasagna into the oven

Cover your assembled lasagna with foil and place it in the center of the oven. Set a timer for 35 minutes. When the timer goes off, uncover the lasagna and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly. At this point, remove the pan from the oven, place it on a heat-proof surface, and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes (but preferably at least 25 minutes) before slicing. 

Rapone can't emphasize enough how important this last step is to help the layers to "set up" and will make for a more attractive presentation when you cut into the lasagna. You can pop the individual servings in the microwave to get them piping hot once again if desired, or you can serve the individual portions on plates you have warmed up. Garnish with fresh basil. 

Classic Lasagna Recipe With A Twist Recipe
4.9 from 30 ratings
Nestled within this rich, classic, homestyle lasagna are healthy veggies and turkey sausage. This version is basically a secret vegetable delivery system.
Prep Time
35
minutes
Cook Time
45
minutes
Servings
6
servings
Beautiful baked classic lasagna with a twist
Total time: 80 minutes
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large or 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound Italian turkey sausage
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
Directions
  1. Take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator, and set aside to allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Place the lasagna noodles in a baking dish. Heat three to four cups of water, pour over the lasagna noodles, and cover with plastic wrap or foil.
  4. Chop the basil finely, and set it aside. Mince your garlic, chop your onion, and set those aside.
  5. Coarsely grate carrots and zucchini.
  6. In a large skillet or braising dish, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and salt and stir.
  7. Once the onion begins to soften, add the grated carrots and zucchini to the pan. Stir to mix.
  8. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to brown, and the zucchini has reduced to about half its volume. Push the veggie mixture to the side and add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet.
  9. Add the turkey sausage. Break it up with a spatula as you begin incorporating the veggies. Continue cooking until the sausage is cooked through. 
  10. Add the garlic to the skillet and stir to incorporate for one minute.
  11. Add the entire can of tomatoes (including the liquid).
  12. Add the dried basil and oregano and stir to incorporate. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer while you prep the cheese mixture.
  13. In a large mixing bowl, fold together one and a half cups of mozzarella, half of the parmesan, all of the ricotta and cream cheese, the egg, and the basil.
  14. Remove noodles from water and onto a clean kitchen towel. Allow to dry for two to three minutes per side, flipping the noodles halfway.
  15. While the noodles are drying, spray a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  16. Spread about a quarter of the meat sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Top with three lasagna noodles.
  17. Gently spread half the cheese mixture on top, then add another quarter of the meat sauce. Layer another three noodles and repeat with remain cheese and meat mixtures. Top with the last three noodles and then the remaining sauce and shredded mozzarella and parmesan.
  18. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.
  19. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 920
Total Fat 60.4 g
Saturated Fat 32.2 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 252.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 39.8 g
Dietary Fiber 4.5 g
Total Sugars 11.2 g
Sodium 1,716.4 mg
Protein 56.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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