Monday, April 7, 2008

Light Fresh Tomato Lasagna: We’ve Got the Means to Make Amends

While Sundays in Casa de CHG are usually peaceful, relaxing affairs, last night was particularly sweet. Laid up by a slight illness, The Boyfriend and I had a little wine, worked quietly in our living room/Giant Teal Box of Tealness, and listened to old Pearl Jam B-Sides (found here, at I am Fuel, You are Friends). PJ was one of my favorite bands growing up, and hearing Ten at any time, in any form, transforms me to that dorky, flannel-clad 15-year-old who thought Eddie Vedder held all the secrets to life. (Note: he does.)

I’m 30 now (Eddie’s 43!?!), and while they still holds box seats in my heart, I don’t run out and buy Pearl Jam albums on the first day anymore. In fact, I don’t buy ANY albums on release day, and haven’t for a few years. I don’t know why that is. Am I too busy? Do Pearl Jam and Radiohead and U2 mean less to me now than they did in 11th grade? Is this what happens when you’re 30?

I don’t have a great segue here. Just know that last night, as I was pondering these Questions of Great Importance, I was also chowing down on a mean slice of Cooking Light’s Fresh Tomato Lasagna, minus that tricky “fresh” part. On the suggestion of my friend M last year, I baked the dish with canned, whole peeled tomatoes (instead of off-the-vine), which has since made it cheaper, easier to prepare, and not at all lacking in taste. (Thanks, M!)

A few points if you decide to make one of your own:

1) Reducing the sauce to a chunky (not watery) consistency is incredibly important here, as it will make or break the lasagna. (I speak from traumatic experience.)

2) It’s worth splurging for a slightly nicer-quality brand of tomatoes, since it’s the highlight of the dish.

3) As always, Cooking Light is pushing it calling this an eight-portion meal. If I had company coming, I’d make sure I had a salad and some garlic bread waiting in the wings. Oh – and since CL calculated the nutritional numbers, only the price is added up below.

Now, I'm off to stew for awhile over aging, music, passion, and how a few scruffy-looking, Doc Marten-sporting dudes from Seattle can simultaneously define and upheave a willing listener's life. Tonight, while you're making this lasagna (hee), try it yourself: go home and listen to your favorite band when you were in high school. How did they make you feel, and when did it change? What does that answer mean to you now?

P.S. No Code is PJ's best album. I’m not kidding.

Fresh Tomato Sauce Lasagna
8 servings
Adapted from Cooking Light.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Cooking spray
8 cooked lasagna noodles
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil

1) In a small pot or Dutch oven, heatl oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While this is happening, crush the tomatoes with a food mill or by hand and add them to the pot. (You could probably just buy crushed tomatoes, too, but I haven’t tried it.) Bring pot to a boil. Drop heat to a simmer. Cook 80 minutes, until sauce is a little thickened. Kill heat. Add "2/3 cup basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper." Stir. Set aside.

2) Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 13x9 Pyrex/baking dish with cooking spray.

3) In a medium saucepan, heat ricotta over medium heat. When hot, add mozzarella. Stir until mozz is all melted, and fully incorporated with the ricotta. Kill heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir.

4) Pour 2 cups tomato sauce in baking dish. Spread to cover bottom. Place 4 noodles over the sauce. Add all the ricotta/mozzarella and spread out on noodles. Place 4 remaining noodles on top of cheese. Spread last 2 cups tomato mixture on noodles. Sprinkle with the parmesan. Bake for 15 minutes, "or until cheese melts and filling is bubbly." Take out of oven. Garnish with basil. Give lasagna a few minutes to cool and set. Serve.

Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
290 calories, 11.8 g fat, $1.28

1 tablespoon olive oil: $0.10
1 cup finely chopped onion: $0.18
4 garlic cloves, minced: $0.12
2 28-oz cans whole peeled or crushed tomatoes: $2.98
2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil: $1.69
1 teaspoon salt, divided: $0.02
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided: $0.02
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese: $1.99
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese: $1.49
Cooking spray: $0.03
8 cooked lasagna noodles: $0.50
1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely shredded fresh Parmesan cheese: $1.13
TOTAL: $10.23

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Anonymous said...

It's disheartening that 11+ grams of fat per serving is considered "light" these days!

Kris said...

I'll give you that. But for lasagna, it's outstanding.

Liz said...

Sometimes Cooking Light cracks me up. Call it 8 servings instead of 6, and it's "light!"

I'm slowly coming to realize that cheese (even part-skim) is almost as 'costly', calorie-wise, as butter.


Kris said...

Liz, that drives me CRAZY about that magazine. While it's nice having lesser-calorie alternatives, they completely cheat on the portions. Brownies made in an 8x8 pan are supposed to be cut into 16 servings? Nuh-unh.

Kristen said...

I don't think 11 grams is that bad, actually. As long as you don't eat gobs of the dish and you have some salad to round the meal out, you're not going to spoil your diet.

And it's a HECK of a lot less fatty and non-nutritious than eating a meal out.

Mo Laikowski said...

Yay! I haven't made this in awhile. Maybe this weekend? Hmmm. The leftovers on this puppy are the BEST.



Ms Meghan said...

I still listen to the Smashing Pumpkins, which were my version of Pearl Jam. And a good portion of "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" sends a chill down my spine when I hear it.

I also heard "Caress Me Down" by Sublime on the radio the other day, and I had an intense flashback to being 13 and wishing I knew Spanish.