Lightening Up Lasagna

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Summer is the perfect time to lighten up some of your favorite comfort classics.  Generally people enjoy lighter fare during the summer months because the heat diminishes our appetites.  It is also common for people to eat less overall during the day and to eat their meals later on in the day when it begins to cool down. This vegetable based lasagna will satisfy your craving for the infamous wintertime staple without leaving you feeling overstuffed.

I slice the zucchini and squash paper thin to replace the traditional lasagna noodles.  But don’t worry! You won’t even miss the pasta. The vegetables add depth of flavor and texture…and hey it’s gluten free and you get a full serving of vegetables all in one dish! Not to mention it is also vegetarian and lower in calories than a traditional lasagna.IMG_0816IMG_0817

Although zucchini and summer squash have a high water content you can still reap many of their nutritional advantages.  A serving of zucchini and summer squash contains potassium, beta carotene, vitamin E and cancer fighting antioxidants.  When picking out squash either in the grocery store or farmers market look for unbruised crops that are heavy for their size with vibrantly colored skin.  Remember that the smaller the squash the more flavor it will behold.  The larger zucchini and summer squash  tend to taste more like water and they typically have tougher, seedy centers. I save the larger ones for making fritters or baked goods and reserve the smaller ones for dishes where they are the center of the show like this lasagna.

Here is the recipe for my summer rendition of lasagna. If you do not have enough squash or want to try a variation add carrots or eggplant.  I recently made one with carrots and I thought their sweetness complimented the squash very well. You can serve this dish with additional Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.  IMG_0818

Vegetable Lasagna

Yields 8 Servings

Ingredients

2 large zucchini

1 large summer squash

26 ounces of homemade or jarred (I recommend using San Marzano) marinara sauce

16 ounces of ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Wash and dry zucchini and squash.  Then cut lengthwise in 1/4 inch pieces.  Be careful, use a sharp knife to do this.

Assemble lasagna in a large (13×9) baking dish. Spoon a small amount of marinara into the baking dish.  Just enough to cover the bottom.  Then lay the zucchini and squash in an alternating pattern across the baking dish. Top with a layer of mozzarella cheese and ricotta. Spoon more marinara over the top of the dish. Repeat this step two more times.  Then sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and tin foil, then freeze until you are ready to serve.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and place the (covered) frozen lasagna on the middle rack. Cook for one hour until the zucchini and squash have softened and the cheese is completely melted. (*The lasagna might require additional cooking time if it was previously frozen solid. I recommend letting it thaw out on the counter the day you wish to serve it.) If you want to brown the top of your lasagna remove the tin foil for the last 15 minutes to allow for browning or broil for the last 2-3 minutes. Top lasagna with chopped basil and additional Parmesan (if desired). Serve with salad and fresh bread to soak up all the tomato sauce.IMG_0865IMG_0858

Sources: 
“Vegetarian [Paperback].” Vegetarian: Nicola Graimes: 9780760749531: Amazon.com: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. (38-39)
"Why Does Hot Weather Decrease One's Appetite?" DoctorNDTV Global RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 July 2013.
CLARKE, SUZAN. "America's Healthy Summer: Do Summer Dieters Have Greater Chance of Weight Loss Success?" ABC News. ABC News Network, 07 June 2010. Web. 26 July 2013.