Crowd-pleasing lasagna recipes can be healthy for you, with fat free cheeses, whole wheat noodles or rice noodles lean meat, chicken, turkey or all vegetables.
I like to use ricotta cheese because it is so high in protein.
Ricotta is Italian for recooked, the cheese got its name because it is made literally by recooking the liquid left over from making other cheese, often mozzarella. This is possible because when the mozzarella or other cheeses are made, most but not all of the protein is removed from the liquid, usually cow's milk.
That leftover protein can be cooked and coagulated using a different, acid-based ( a rennet-base method is used to made the first batch of cheese). The result is a soft, granular cheese with a texture somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese.
The taste is mild, milky, salty and slightly acidic. And that acid is key. When cheese is formed using acid, the proteins become heat resistant.
In other words, the cheese doesn't melt. So ricotta falls in the same category as paneer, halloumi, queso blanco and other cheese that can be heated without melting. This is why ricotta is such a fine choice for lasagna recipes, stuffed shells, ravioli and cheesecakes. It heats wonderfully, but doesn't reduce to a pool of goo.
Heat olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven on medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add sausage and cook, stirring frequently to break up, until meat losses its pink colour, about 5 minutes. Stir in milk cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, another 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil and bring to a simmer. Turn down heat and cook at a bare simmer for 3 of to 5 minutes.
Transfer sauce ( about 8 cups) to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Place spinach in triple layer of paper towels and squeeze to remove any remaining moisture. Stir together spinach, ricotta, ½ cup parmesan, eggs salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Spread ¼ cup sauce across bottom of 9x13 pan, now place 3 noodles crosswise on top of sauce. Drop 3 heaping tablespoon of the spinach-ricotta mixture over each noodle and spread.Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella, spoon 1 ½ cups sauce over cheese. Repeat 2 more times.
Top with and remaining 3 noodles and cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and ½ cup parmesan cheese.
Cover top of dish with a sheet of parchment paper. Wrap entire dish in several layers of plastic wrap and foil. Spray a piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray and use it to cover dish tightly.
Preheat oven to 375F. Remove the parchment, plastic and foil. Spray a fresh sheet
of foil with nonstick cooking spray and use it to cover dish tightly.
Bake until noodles are soft, and lasagna is heated through,
1 hour. Remove foil and continue to bake until cheese on top is lightly browned and filling is bubbling, and the interior registers 160F on an instant-read thermometer, another 15-20 minutes.
Let stand 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
In a saucepan, combine beef or chicken, onions and garlic and brown. Add spaghetti sauce and frozen vegetables, cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in grape tomatoes.
Meanwhile cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Cut each crosswise into 3 pieces, set aside.In a small bowl, combine ricotta and parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Scoop some hot beef/chicken mixture into each plate and top each with 2 noodles apiece, overlapping. Top each with a spoonful of ricotta mixture, followed by more beef/chicken mixture. Repeat noodle, ricotta and meat layers.
Garnish each with a sprinkling of grated parmesan and some fresh basil, if desired.