Meat and cheese lasagna

This photo provided by America's Test Kitchen shows a delectably slimmed-down Meat and Cheese Lasagna, made with a recipe included in the cookbook "The Best Light Recipe," from the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. One of the secrets of the recipe's success in trimming fat: It uses lean ground turkey, as well as low-fat cheeses.

AP Photo/America's Test Kitchen
Published: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 2:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 1, 2006 at 2:11 p.m.

Would you believe a low-fat meat and cheese lasagna?

The challenge sounds tough, but it's the kind of thing the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine take on, and doggedly carry off in their characteristic search for perfection.

The following recipe is one example of their efforts collected for our dining pleasure and health in "The Best Light Recipe" cookbook (America's Test Kitchen, 2006, $35). Light in this context means low-fat.

To summarize the evolution of their lasagna coup - "How We Did It" - they disclose that they:

-Used ground turkey instead of ground beef and pork in the sauce.

-Made the sauce even leaner by removing most of the oil.

-Replaced whole-milk ricotta with fat-free ricotta .

-Replaced whole-milk mozzarella with reduced-fat mozzarella.

-Reduced the Parmesan to just 1 ounce, from 2 1/2 ounces.

Warning: Do not use ground turkey breast meat (sometimes labeled as 99 percent fat free) for this recipe, or the sauce will be dry and grainy. Do not use fat-free mozzarella or the filling will be rubbery.

Meat and Cheese Lasagna

For the Sauce:

Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes

1 medium onion, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil


6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound 93 percent lean ground turkey

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves

Ground black pepper

For Filling and Pasta Layers:

1 pound fat-free ricotta cheese

12 ounces reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Vegetable oil spray

12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package

For the sauce: Process 1 can of tomatoes with their juices in a food processor until almost smooth, about 5 seconds. Combine the onion, oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large nonstick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in half of the ground turkey and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat loses its raw color but has not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, remaining can of diced tomatoes with their juices, broth and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended and the sauce is thickened, about 45 minutes.

Stir the remaining turkey into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce measures about 6 cups, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the filling: Mix the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, egg, salt and pepper together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined (you should have about 3 cups of filling).

To assemble and bake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 F. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the baking dish.

Lay 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, spaced evenly apart. Place 1/3 cup of the filling on top of each noodle and spread it out evenly over the entire noodle using a rubber spatula. Spread 1 cup of the sauce evenly over the filling. Repeat this layering twice more.

Lay the remaining 3 noodles over the top. Spread the remaining 1 1/2 cups sauce evenly over the noodles, making sure to cover the edges. Spray a large piece of foil with vegetable oil spray and cover the lasagna tightly.

Place the lasagna on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the lasagna evenly with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Continue to bake, uncovered, until the cheese is bubbling and slightly brown, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 10 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 340 cal., 10 g total fat (4 g saturated), 70 mg chol., 31 g carbo., 29 g pro., 1 g fiber, 1,110 mg sodium.

(Compare this with classic meat and cheese lasagna, which typically would have per serving: 540 cal., 110 mg chol., 30 g total fat (15 g saturated).

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