Plate of Illusion – Neen’s No-Noodle Lasagna [The Mouthful Morsel]

Create Your Own Bite, The Mouthful Morsel

This lasagna is layers of all of my favorite things – and best of all, there’s almost no guilt when the plate is cleared, which it most certainly will be.

Create Your Own Bite #8

Neen’s No-Noodle Lasagna

This recipe is dedicated by my mother, who first suggested the idea to me, and is the strongest, most wonderful woman I know. 

2 Zucchini

1 Spanish Onion

1 Plum Tomato

1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, Quartered

Trader Giotto’s Parmesan & Romano, To Taste

1 Jar Stonewall Kitchen Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

1 Red Bell Pepper

1/2 Green Bell Pepper

15 oz Trader Joe’s Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

1 Large Egg

2 – 3 Cups Fresh Spinach

Pinch of Pumpkin Pie Spice (Or Nutmeg)

This recipe makes 9 slices of 3-layer lasagna.

Estimated Calories: 210

It’s mother’s day, and that means mimosas, chocolate coconut cupcakes, and lots of food. I am definitely my mother’s daughter. We both love eating, dining, and sharing food with the people we love. But when we can, we put the dressing on the side, hold the cheese, and, if your my mother, tell the waiter to sauté, rather than fry the calamari.

In her honor, I’m sharing this recipe that my mother, Eileen “Neen,” conceived one day on the phone, and that I put to the pan with two fabulous friends.

A Little Tip: This is a great recipe to make with your mother, your best friend, or someone who generally has good knife skills. It’s more involved than most of my recipes, and it’s fun to slit the work. Pass the time and share the final creation with amazing people.

To get going on your no-noodle lasagna, (gluten-free, vegetarian, low-calorie, and paleo-friendly) take the zucchini and slice it lengthwise into thin strips, about 1/8 of an inch thick. If you have a mandolin, this is really helpful tool – it will allow you to cut the zucchini into uniform strips. Unfortunately, this is not a device you can find in my tiny apartment kitchen, so a regular chef’s knife had to make-do.

Next, dice up the red pepper, green pepper, and onion. Get the diced onion into the sauté pan to start, allowing it to turn translucent before adding the peppers and quartered grape tomatoes. I put a splash of Chardonnay in the pan, but mostly because it was the beverage of choice for the evening and I thought the vegetables could use a little liquid.

Onions, peppers, and tomatoes make for a beautifully colored layer in the pasta. Plus, a dash of wine never hurt anyone.

In the meantime, get the ricotta filling ready by mixing the cheese with one large egg. Add a pinch of nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice. This will serve as the perfect complement to the sweet and tangy butternut squash sauce.

A Little Note:  This sauce was a gift from my mother, that I’ve been dying to put to good use. The sweetness and tanginess from the sauce is a perfect counterpart to the creamy ricotta, and the zucchini noodles are a wonderful vehicle for the heavier, higher-calorie sauce. Don’t hesitate, however, to substitute your favorite vodka sauce or traditional marinara. In this case, any sauce will work just fine!

Once the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, set them aside and get the spinach into the pan. The spinach soaks up all the delicious caramelization from the onions and the juice from the tomatoes. When the spinach is wilted, pull it off the heat, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and start assembling your lasagna.

The 90 calories from this recipe’s zucchini noodles are a great trade for the 570 calories found in an equivalent amount of no-boil lasagna noodles.

In a 9 x 9 non-stick pan, put down a thin layer of butternut squash sauce, and top with your first layer of zucchini “noodles.” This takes about 4 cuts of zucchini. Top this with the ricotta mixture, and then sprinkle a layer of Parmesan and Romano, to taste. Add a 1/3 of the vegetables, followed by 1/3 of the spinach, and a generous layer of butternut squash pasta sauce. Repeat until you’ve got three complete layers. On the final layer, garnish with nine thick slices of the plum tomato, marking each serving and adding an extra touch of acid.

Here, we topped our lasagna with thick-cut slices of tomato. Experiment with fresh basil leaves, or a handful of low-fat shredded mozarella.

Bake your lasagna for 45 minutes, or until you can see the sauce simmering. The zucchini will still be crisp – for a softer “noodle,” grill or boil the zucchini before cutting it. Allow the dish to cool for about ten minutes before diving in. Grab a slice for yourself, give one to a friend, and put two aside for your mom. Either way, this is a dish meant for celebrating, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s always important to find small reasons to celebrate in life.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. Until next time, I’m off to share another little bite.



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