They say when you get married, you not only marry your spouse but you also marry their family and friends. I’m happy to say that I married in to this lasagna. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is for a healthy, veggie-packed lasagna. It is adapted from a recipe I got from a friend of my husband’s after we got married.
Now, I’m all for a classic rich, meaty, tomato and cheese lasagna but I can’t do that all of the time. It’s just too much. This lasagna is packed with veggies, cuts down on the pasta, and it can be made gluten free! When I eat this lasagna I feel like I’m indulging but still keeping it on the healthy side!
Disclaimer: this recipe is going to take you some time. This is a good one to make ahead on a weekend and warm it up during the week. I’ll give more make-ahead and freezer tips at the end of this post. It’s well worth the time, and the steps are simple. I just want you to know that going in, you’ll be spending a good couple of hours in the kitchen.
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Let’s make lasagna!
First, you will make your fillings, starting with the meat sauce. I’ve used ground beef and ground turkey for this recipe and both work out great. Brown your meat and drain any excess fat. Add salt and pepper and your pasta sauce. I used one of my favorite tools for browning the meat, my Mix N Chop! It’s a Pampered Chef product but also available on Amazon.
When I was preparing this recipe for the blog, I noticed there was some sauce left in the jar (as there often is), so I grabbed a bottle of red wine and poured about 1/4 cup into the jar, shook it up and poured that over the sauce. The wine adds a depth of flavor and richness to the sauce. Make sure you choose a wine that you would drink, as the flavor concentrates. *You can do this with water if you don’t want to use wine. Allow the sauce to simmer on low while you prepare the rest of the fillings.
Now you will make the veggie filling. For this filling, I use sliced mushrooms (you can slice them yourself or get some help from the store and get them pre-sliced), garlic, and spinach. You can add whatever veggies you like. Bell peppers would be great, as well as any other kind of green. Add your own flair!
When you’re cooking the mushrooms, do like Julia Child taught us, and don’t crowd the pan. If you crowd the pan the mushrooms won’t brown, they’ll steam. Let the mushrooms cook down a bit before adding the garlic, as the mushrooms will take a good bit longer to cook than the garlic and you might risk burning the garlic. No one likes burnt garlic! Once the mushrooms have cooked down (they should look like the photo on the left), add the garlic and the thawed spinach. Allow the veggies to cook down and come together (the photo on the right).
Next, you’ll mix together your cottage cheese and Italian seasoning. I say to add 1 1/2 tablespoons of seasoning, but add it to your taste. In a separate bowl, you’ll combine your shredded cheeses (cheddar and mozzarella). Set these aside while you cook your noodles.
Cooking the lasagna noodles…it’s a little unorthodox…
Okay, yes I know you’re probably used to one of two ways of cooking lasagna noodles. Either you boil them in a pot and end up having them fall apart on you before you are able to arrange them in the pan, or you use no-cook noodles. Both of these are fine, but when I saw Alton Brown use this trick to soften lasagna noodles (but not too much) I had to try it!
I’ve been gluten free for a while and I found that I used no-cook noodles they would still be crunchy in my lasagna. Who wants crunchy lasagna noodles? I tested this trick one time and made half of the noodles this way and half without heating them, and let me tell you that this trick made all of the difference! I haven’t made lasagna the same since!
You’ll start by boiling some water. We have an electric kettle that is perfect for this. Pour your hot water into a heat-safe pan (I use a Pyrex 9 x 13 pan for this) and add in four noodles at a time. I know if you have seen Alton do this, he does a whole box at once. I’ve noticed that gluten free noodles tend to stick together a little easier, so if you’re going that route it’s best to work in batches of a few at a time.
Let the noodles sit in the hot water for a few minutes, and use tongs to flip over once during the few minutes. You’re looking for pliable noodles. You don’t want them to go floppy. Floppy = over done. Remove the noodles from the water and set on a cooling rack that is placed inside a cookie sheet with a layer of paper towels under the cooling rack. Follow with the rest of the noodles. *You will notice that this recipe only uses about 8 noodles, as the fillings really take the main stage.
Assemble and bake the lasagna
Now that you have all of your fillings and noodles prepared, it’s time to put it all together! First, spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Your first layer will be a very thin layer of meat sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then you will layer four noodles followed by the veggies, cottage cheese mixture, meat sauce, and shredded cheeses (in that order). You will repeat one more time, in order to have two layers total. Like I said, the fillings really are the star of this dish, and the noodles are there for support and to add structure.
Once you’ve assembled the lasagna, you will put it in a 350 oven and bake it for 45 minutes, or until it’s bubbly. I find my pan is always pretty full, so if you’re worried about any bubbling over, it’s a good idea to place a sheet pan on the rack under the rack with your lasagna (not under the lasagna pan).
Once the lasagna is finished cooking, let it cool a few minutes before serving. Enjoy with garlic toast!
One pan too much?
I know that if you’re not feeding a crowd, it’s hard to see the sense in making a big pan of lasagna. In the past I have made this exact recipe and split it up into three separate, smaller lasagnas to freeze and eat as needed. Each of these smaller lasagnas provides two large portions.
If you’re making smaller lasagnas, grab aluminum loaf pans (you can usually find them in your local grocery store). You’ll prepare and layer as before. Cook at 350, starting to check around 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before wrapping and freezing. To reheat, allow the lasagna to completely thaw in the fridge, then portion and reheat.
Looking for more healthy dinner ideas?
Healthy Veggie-Packed Lasagna
- 1 box lasagna noodles gluten-free, if needed
- 24 oz pasta sauce
- 24 oz cottage cheese
- 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
- 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
- 1.5 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 lb ground meat beef or turkey
- 16 oz frozen chopped spinach thawed
- 16 oz mushrooms sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced, or more to taste
Make the fillings
- Brown meat and drain excess fat. Add salt and pepper and pasta sauce. Allow this mixture to cook on low while you prepare the rest of the lasagna.
- Add oil to a separate pan and heat over medium high. Once the pan is hot, add your mushrooms. Cook mushrooms until they are soft, then add garlic and spinach. Cook to allow all of the ingredients to come together and warm through.
- Mix Italian seasoning with cottage cheese.
- Mix together the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.
Cook the noodles
- Heat water to boiling. Pour hot water into a heat-safe 9 x 13 dish (Pyrex works fine).
- Place 4 lasagna noodles in the hot water and let them sit a few minutes. Using tongs, turn the noodles occasionally.
- Once the noodles begin to bend (you don't want them floppy), remove them to a cooling rack that is placed in a cooking sheet with a layer of paper towels underneath.
- Continue with the rest of the noodles, in batches of 4 noodles at a time.
Assemble the lasagna
- Layer the noodles and fillings starting with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Add 4 noodles, then the veggies, cottage cheese mixture, meat sauce, and shredded cheeses. Repeat for two layers. You will have thick layers of filling in between the noodles.
- Cook at 350 for 45 minutes or until bubbly.