Like every picky, veggie-loathing child, I threw my fair share of table tantrums at the mere sight of anything green and leafy. But I do remember a few meals that caused my tiny heart to race. Those anticipated foods that somehow had the power to classify the entire night they graced. Taco night. Pizza night. Make-your-own-sundae-and-stay-up-past-your-bedtime-to-watch-a-movie-night.
But there was one night that beat all the others. The one that would make me abandon my half-built snowman without even being called. At least not by a human. No, it was the aroma of Garlic bread, tomato sauce and Italian sausage that literally wafted through the walls and into the chilly air to tell me exactly what night it was. Lasagna night.
And while my mother's recipe is just about perfect in every way, I haven't exactly had the urge to dig into a meaty, cheesy slice of wintry comfort now that spring has arrived. This sock-ditching, window-opening weather has me yearning for much lighter fare.
But alas, last week I came home to that oh-so-familiar aroma floating from under our neighbor's apartment door and that nasty little tease stirred up all those cravings inside of me. Luckily, a little digging led me to this lovely rendition.
Coming in at a measly 272 calories, this lightened up lasagna pairs the fresh flavors of basil and prosciutto with a light, creamy, spicy cheese sauce that is just as amazing if not more than its full fat counterpart. Layer all that savory goodness between saucy noodles, throw in a salad and a slice of buttery garlic bread, and it's a meal nothing short of comforting. Anytime of the year.
So with a spring breeze blowing through my curtains, I got to work boiling noodles and making the cheese sauce, a delicious combo of Romano, cottage and cream cheeses, garlic, crushed red pepper, fresh basil and egg.
The original recipe called for dried basil, but I opted for fresh. In my opinion, nothing beats fresh basil, especially this time of year. I came across a comment on a forum for dried-to-fresh basil ratios and I think it sumed it up best: “The only useful purpose I can think of for dried basil would be mulch for fresh basil plants.” So. True.
Once the noodles were boiled and dry and the cheese was ready, everything else was a cinch. I simply layered the sauce, noodles, cheese and prosciutto, then repeated three times.
Note: You may want to have an extra jar of sauce on hand. I ended up using a little more than what was called for. (Close to half of the second jar.)
Another modification I made was to lay the thinly sliced prosciutto strips down whole instead of chopping, which saved tons of time and flavor. It worked great. Just make sure you get enough strips.
I topped it all with a final layer of sauce, a hefty helping of mozzarella and Romano, and into the oven it went.
An hour later, the entire house was filled with the aroma of garlic and basil and I was face to face with a bubbling, cheesy, melty masterpiece.
And boy was it delicious. Layer after layer of cheesy-prosciutto-basil goodness. The flavors were fresh and the red pepper gave it a nice kick. (We added a little extra heat, too.) I actually liked it better than those traditional 800 calorie-packing meaty-monsters you find at restaurants. Even my meat-obsessed husband gobbled up two slices before I could finish mine. (Granted, I was taking pictures.)
I'm so pleased that I officially made this my new go-to lasagna for every season. Maybe one day my own children will bolt through the door to devour it.
Tomato-Basil Lasagna with Prosciutto
Cooking Light, JULY 2000
Yield: 9 servings
Yield: 9 servings
If you want to freeze and make later: After assembling the lasagna, cover and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator; bake as directed.
5 garlic cloves
1 (16-ounce) carton 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Romano cheese, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons dried basil (Or about 2.5-3 Tablespoons fresh...highly recommend!)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large egg
1 (26-ounce) bottle fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce (Actually, you'll need about 1.5 jars)
12 cooked lasagna noodles
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped prosciutto or ham (I just layered the slices - works great)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375°.
Drop garlic through food chute with food processor on, and process until minced. Add cottage cheese; process 2 minutes or until smooth. Add cream cheese, 2 tablespoons Romano, basil, pepper, and egg; process until well-blended.
Spread 1/2 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over the pasta sauce; top with 1 cup cheese mixture, 1/3 cup prosciutto, and 3/4 cup pasta sauce. Repeat the layers two times, ending with noodles. Spread remaining pasta sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Romano and mozzarella.
Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let lasagna stand 5 minutes.
Nutritional Information: Calories: 272 (19% from fat), Fat: 5.6g (sat 2.8g,mono 1.8g,poly 0.6g), Protein: 20.8g, Carbohydrate: 33g, Fiber: 2.1g, Cholesterol: 47mg, Iron: 2.3mg, Sodium: 775mg, Calcium: 213mg.