Wednesday, October 6, 2010

0 Recipe #178: Zucchini Lasagna (with Fresh Tomato Sauce Made From Scratch!)

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Here's an fresh, easy-to-make recipe that's perfect for weeknight meals.

Zucchini Lasagna (with Fresh Tomato Sauce Made From Scratch!)

Ricotta Mixture Ingredients:
4 c. nonfat, part-skim ricotta cheese (32 oz. container)
2 large eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. garlic, finely minced (about 6 large cloves)
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, finely minced
2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, julienned into 1/4" thick strips
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/16 tsp. (1 pinch) ground nutmeg
3/4 c. shredded, part-skim, lowfat mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Asiago) cheese, shredded

Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. shallots, finely minced (about 4-6 large shallots)
1 fresh bay leaf
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
4 c. vine-ripened tomatoes, diced (about 4-6 medium-sized tomatoes)
1/2 c. water (for sauce)
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, julienned into 1/4" thick strips
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, finely minced
1/2 c. soft, fresh sun-dried tomatoes (i.e., the kind that's not packed in oil), julienned & tightly packed

Other Ingredients for Lasagna Assembly:
extra virgin olive oil, to spray glass baking dish
9 oven-ready, Barilla lasagna noodles (from an 8-oz package)
4 medium-sized zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/8" thick strips
1 c. shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. fresh Parmegiano-Reggiano (or Asiago) cheese, shaved or shredded

Directions: With a spray bottle or Misto oil diffuser, lightly spray a 13" x 9" Pyrex glass baking dish with extra virgin olive oil & set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together all ingredients for the ricotta mixture until well-blended & smooth. Refrigerate mixture for an hour to allow flavors to meld. (You can do this step in advance if you prefer.)

While ricotta mixture is setting in the refrigerator, make tomato sauce: In a deep, 12-13" sauté pan, heat olive oil on low heat. Stir in shallots, bay leaf, salt, pepper, red chili pepper flakes, & the rest of the dried spices, & sauté for 5 minutes. Next, add tomatoes & cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about another 3-5 minutes or so. Stir in water, tomato paste, basil, & parsley, & cook for another 5 minutes. Stir continually to prevent sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan (or burning). Cook sauce until liquid has reduced to about 1/2 of its original amount. With about a minute of cooking to go, add sun-dried tomatoes. Remove from heat, discard bay leaf, & set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Assemble lasagna in the glass baking dish: Remove ricotta mixture from the refrigerator & ladle some of it into the glass baking dish. Evenly spread a thin layer of it the across the bottom, so that it's completely covered with the ricotta mixture. Next, add a layer of 3 (evenly-spaced) lasagna noodles, followed by a layer of sauce, & then a layer of zucchini strips. Repeat process until you've reached the final layer of zucchini. Then sprinkle with a layer of 1 c. mozzarella, followed by 1/2 c. Parmegiano-Reggiano, completely covering the top of the dish (& all of zucchini) with cheese. Cover baking dish with aluminium foil & place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil & continue baking, uncovered, until the top is golden brown & the filling is bubbling, about 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven & let rest 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into slices & serve.

Yield: Makes about 12 servings.

Chef's Notes: For a bolder tasting tomato sauce, substitute finely minced Spanish or yellow onions for the shallots.

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