Did you know that a hot, spicy meal can reduce stress? Research suggests that hot foods trigger the release of endorphins, the natural chemicals that trigger feelings of euphoria and well being, thereby reducing stress.[i] Made ahead and frozen in serving sized portions this tasty and nutritious dish can also eliminate the “what’s for dinner?” question that often stimulates stress. While Italy offers us the traditional recipe for this classic dish other world cuisines provide interesting variations. Several are offered following the traditional lasagna recipe.
This recipe is the cornerstone recipe in the book I compiled for my students who marry. I was always sad that I did not have a gift for them that reflected their spiritual mentorship with me so one summer I developed One Step Beyond Lasagna for them. Since there is a lot of thinking time as they measure, mix, and make each recipe contains a “mixing meditation.” I included several for you!
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
1 pound ground beef*
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2½ cups (1 lb.-3 oz. can) tomatoes
3 cans tomato paste
2 cups water
2½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
* Eliminate the meat for a Vegetarian version
3 cups fresh ricotta or cream-style cottage cheese (I use half of each)
2/3 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/4 cup snipped parsley
1 pound broad lasagna noodles
1 pound Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
- Brown meat and salt in a large kettle.
- Add onion, garlic, oregano, basil and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Cook until golden brown.
- Drain off any grease.
- Stir in remaining ingredients.
- Cook over low heat 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sauce may be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen.
- Combine ricotta or cottage cheese (may be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen).
- Add 2/3 cups Romano or Parmesan cheese, eggs and 1/4 cup parsley. Mix thoroughly.
- Drop noodles in boiling, salted water. Cook uncovered 15 minutes.
- Rinse, handling noodles carefully to keep from tearing. Drain well.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease a 9" x 13" glass baking dish. Use butter or a vegetable spray, such as “PAM.
- Place a layer of noodles in the bottom of the greased baking dish.
- Top with a 1/4 of the meat sauce.
- Sprinkle with 1/3 of the Ricotta/Cottage Cheese mixture. Add 1/4 of the grated Mozzarella cheese.
- Top with a 1/4 of the meat sauce.
- Repeat two more times, finishing with a layer of sauce.
- Cover with foil, placing shiny side down. Place on a cookie sheet to catch any overflow. Bake on lower rack in oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove foil. Sprinkle with remaining Mozzarella cheese. Place on top rack and completely melt the cheese.
- Allow to set 10-15 minutes before cutting into squares for serving.
- Serves 12 to 15.
BOOSTING LASAGNA’S NUTRITIONAL VALUE
Your tasty dish can receive a nutritional boost by choosing alternative ingredients that don’t sacrifice flavor. Your goal is to cut fat, calories, and increase nutritional value while adding more fiber. Consider these options:
- Replace fatty meats such as ground beef or sausage with ground chicken or turkey.
- If you wish to retain the “meaty flavor” without the fat calories reduce the meat quantity and add sliced mushrooms mixed with Italian herbs.
- Use reduced-fat versions of mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese.
- Substitute cottage cheese or tofu for the ricotta cheese.
- A quinoa mixture can replace the lasagna noodle layer.
- Select whole wheat or high-fiber pasta noodles.
- Replace lasagna noodles with layers of freshly sliced zucchini in vegetable lasagna.
- Add spinach, mushrooms, and other favorite vegetables to increase the bulk of the filling.
CREATIVE LASAGNA SUBSTITUTIONS
- Lasagna with an Asian twist replaces the lasagna noodles with fried wonton wrappers.
- Fry and drain the wonton wrappers well on paper towel.
- Create a meat layer using ground pork or shrimp sauteed with garlic, green onion, and fresh ginger.
- Add a vegetable layer (asparagus, onions, carrots, cilantro, red bell peppers, and cabbage; pick and choose your favorites).
Soy and hoisin sauces add distinct flavors to the dish.
- Use standard lasagna noodles.
- Incorporate some or all of the following ingredients: leeks, fennel seed, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, cannellini beans, crumbled feta cheese, or spinach.
- Substitute ground lamb for a heartier flavor.
- Use chicken or ground turkey for a lower calorie count.
- Corn tortillas replace the lasagna noodles when you go Mexican.
- Monterey and pepper jack cheeses, cubed chicken, Southwest seasonings, green onions and poblano peppers will transform your traditional lasagna casserole.
- A creamy cheese sauce (below) can replace the tomato sauce.
- Garnish with your favorite salsa.
“It (unity) is like to precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron's beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing-- life forever.”
Psalm 133:2 - 3
CREAMY CHEESE SAUCE
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
¼ t. salt
¼ t. dry mustard
1cup shredded cheese
- Melt butter in saucepan over low.
- Blend in flour and salt.
- Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
- Remove from heat.
- Stir in milk.
- Heat to boiling, stirring constantly over low heat.
- Boil and stir 1 minute. A wire whisk is useful for removing any lumps which appear.
- Stir in 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard and 1 cup shredded cheese.
- Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.
A Final Step in Your Lasagna Preparation
Reviewing these recipes and evaluating the time commitment to prepare them you may be thinking, “Why not simply pick up a frozen container in the market or purchase the precooked pasta, bottled sauce, and already blended cheese mixtures and assemble it at home?” These appear to be reasonable management decisions which we all make from time to time. However, if you study the ingredients on the labels of the premade items you will find many unrecognizable items. Some of these may be harmful to you and those consuming the food. The wise woman of Proverbs 31 “watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness (31:27).” Choosing to use pure ingredients will help you look well to the ways of your household. As you prepare your Lasagna sauce and assemble the dish may I encourage you to allow your mind to “simmer” on God’s Word so that your attitude complements your savory dish when it is ready to serve? Consider this acrostic as you cook . . .
L Love as Christ loves. Purpose to memorize and practice 1 Corinthians 13!
A Attitude sets the pace of your home environment. Keep yours positive . . . focus on Philippians 4:8-9.
S Submission . . . willingly apply the teaching of Ephesians 5:21.
A Affections—get them focused on things of eternal value (Colossians 3:1-2).
G GOD . . . keep Him as the head of your household to ensure that your home is a welcoming environment! (John 14:3)
N Nothing is impossible when we trust God in faith. Simmer your mind with Hebrews 11:6.
A Anger is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Allow your thoughts to simmer on the “fruit of the spirit” (Galatians 5:22-26), remembering that meekness pacifies anger (Proverbs 15:1-2; Ecclesiastes 10:4) and that it may be averted by seeking wisdom (Proverbs 29:8).
THE EVERYDAY HOMEMAKER’S MONTHLY MEDITATION THOUGHT
God has said, “Ye were not redeemed with perishable things . . .
But with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Therefore, I may boldly say, “I am God’s redeemed woman.”
If you would like a sample chapter of The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook simply click on “Contact Pat” and request your copy.
Blessings on you as you focus on making your house a home!