Roasted Veggie Lasagna

SliceThe Italian girl in me LOVES lasagna.  When I changed my eating habits to paleo years ago, I had to cut out the grains and dairy so lasagna was obviously a big no-no.  Now that I eat flexibly, I allow myself to eat non-paleo foods, however, I still limit them in my food choices.  When I cook at home, my food is pretty damn clean.  I’ve lived so long without things like pasta and sourdough bread that it’s not that big of a deal to continue on that path of a primarily grain-free diet.  Eating out is where I tend to indulge in those kinds of foods that I normally wouldn’t make at home.  And I no longer feel guilty about it.  I know what foods are nutritious and good for my body but when I choose to order lasagna on a special occasion at a restaurant, I do so knowing exactly what I’m doing and what I’m eating.  I don’t pretend that it’s ok to consume 1,000+ calories in a few bites or eat all of that gluten-filled pasta and fatty cheese.  But when I rarely do it, I do so without any regrets.  Sometimes I feel like shit afterward from the gluttony and other times I feel just fine.  The bottom line for me is that I work my ass off to live a healthy lifestyle.  So I’m OK with letting my inner Italian fat girl out on occasion with some non-clean eats.  Moving away from such a rigid diet to a more flexible eating style has eliminated that horrific guilt factor that I associated with eating Paleo for so long.  And even though I can now eat whatever I want, I actually find myself still making the most nutritious choices for my body and my performance.  I just now have a different attitude about food and eating outside of the “lines.”

Ok, rant over.  So, just because my diet allows me to eat that true greasy and cheesy lasagna, it doesn’t mean I do.  But that doesn’t mean I have to eliminate lasagna from my personal cookbook.  It just makes me get creative with cleaner ingredients.  This cold and rainy weather has been making me crave comfort food like no other so I came up with this roasted vegetable lasagna a few weeks back when my In-laws were coming over for dinner.

NoodlesI initially thought I would make my typical grain-free “noodles” from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain cookbook and use those (link in recipe ingredients below).  Then I thought it might be fun to use different vegetables as my noodle layer.  Each sounded good, so why not use both?!  And that’s how I came up with my roasted vegetable lasagna recipe.  Although this recipe uses grain-free noodles, it does contain dairy.  I personally used a relatively small amount of two kinds of low fat cheese.  Depending on your preference or dietary restrictions, you can use a larger volume of the low-fat cheeses, full-fat cheese instead, a cheese alternative that melts well like the Almond Mozzarella Shreds from Trader Joes I used for my Chicken park, or omit the dairy portion of this recipe completely.

Disclaimer:  This recipe requires time so make it on a day when you have it!  Lots of steps but so worth the time and effort, especially if you are entertaining guests 🙂

Ingredients

12-14 Grain Free Noodles/Crepes/Tortillas

1 – 1 1/2 Egglplant (Depending on Size)

3-4 Zucchinis (Depending on Size)

3-4 Yellow Squash (Depending on Size)

6 cups Fresh Spinach

1 pound Ground Meat of Choice (I used beef)

16-18 oz. Marinara Sauce of Choice

12 oz. Low Fat Ricotta Cheese

10 oz. Low Fat Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Optional Cheese: 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese

Dried Oregano

Dried Basil

Garlic Powder

Salt & Pepper

Directions:

For the “noodles”:  Refer to the Against All Grain recipe here for grain-free crepes to act as the noodle layer.  This is the most time consuming portion of the lasagna recipe and can  be made ahead if time allows.  It can also be a bit frustrating since the crepes are extremely delicate.  Save your “mess ups” because they are great to fill in holes when layering the lasagna dish.

VeggiesFor the Roasted Vegetables:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the eggplant, zucchini and squash lengthwise at approximately a 1/4-1/3 inch thickness.  Do not slice too thin because the vegetables will become too soft when roasting.  Lightly salt the vegetable slices and let rest for about 30 minutes to draw out some their moisture.  After 30 minutes, pat the veggies dry with a paper towel and line them up on a baking sheet. Lightly coat each side of the veggies with non-stick olive oil spray and sprinkle both sides with the dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder and salt and pepper.  Roast the vegetable slices for minutes on one side, remove from the oven, flip over and roast for another 4 minutes.  Vegetable slices should be pliable but not mushy.  Remove from the baking sheet and set aside to cool.

MeatFor the Filling: Brown the ground meat in a sauce pan until just cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Drain any excess fat from the pan.  Add the raw spinach and slightly wilt.

Assembling the Lasagna:  Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13″ Pyrex or baking dish with non-stick olive oil spray to prevent sticking.  Assemble the layers of the lasagna as follows…

Line the bottom of the dish with approximately 4 whole crepes (may add partial pieces to cover any holes).

Arrange squash slices tightly on top of the crepes.

Spread 1/3 of the marinara sauce over the squash slices.

Add 1/2 of the meat and spinach mixture on top of the marinara, spreading evenly.  The mixture will not completely cover the zucchini which is fine.

CheeseAdd 1/2 of the ricotta cheese in small chunks and 1/3 of the mozzarella shreds over the meat and spinach mixture.

Repeat the above steps starting with the crepes followed by eggplant slices, then the marinara, meat and cheeses.

Atop the second layer of cheese, arrange a tight layer of the zucchini and then place approximately 4 more crepes (plus pieces for any holes).

Spread the last 1/3 of the marinara sauce then last 1/3 of the mozzarella shreds as the final topping.

Garnish with a few pinches of the dried oregano and basil as well.

Optional but recommended:  Sprinkle 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese for a little added flavor and browning.

Baking the Lasagna:  Loosely cover your lasagna with aluminum foil and bake the lasagna at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 25-35 minutes depending on the size of your lasagna and oven calibration.  The vegetables may continue to produce water throughout the baking process.  Every 15 minutes or so, pull the lasagna out and use a baster to suck excess liquid out of the corners of the baking dish.

Lasagna

Serving the Lasagna:  Let your lasagna rest for about 10 minutes after pulling it out of the oven.  Cut into large squares and serve using a large spatula!

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