Two lasagnas: no meat, no tomato sauce: eliminating the least unhealthy ingredient

My mother taught me to cook by having me work as her sous-chef. I have to admit that I have not been as generous as she about teaching my daughter. Somehow, my fearless photographer has managed to become a great cook when she sets her mind to it–even without the meticulous lessons on technique.

no to sauce--yes to tomatoes photo by REG

no to sauce–yes to tomatoes
photo by REG

When my daughter does cook, her recipes can be quite ambitious. She has made great Vietnamese chicken and chicken pot pies. Her go-to cookbook is Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat. The recipes in this book are not necessarily easy; some include elements that good chefs have to master; for example, the vegetable lasagna includes both a béchamel sauce and roasted red peppers. It’s a delicious dish and has a range of vegetables—just not tomato sauce.

When my daughter and I started talking about  “tomato sauce-less” lasagna, I immediately thought of “flourless chocolate cake” and my daughter knew exactly what I meant.  It’s not that this lasagna has anything to do with the restaurant staple of flour less chocolate cake. Instead, I was thinking of   BJ Novak’s story Julie and the Warlord. In it, Julie and her date –who just happens to be a warlord–are making small talk and looking at a menu. The warlord, being his charming first-date self, questions why every one makes a big deal about flourless chocolate cake: “Is flour such a bad thing? I mean compared to other things in chocolate cake.” He goes on to say: “Flour is probably the least unhealthy thing I can think of in chocolate cake.”

Teen cook with Teens Cook lasagna photo by YJAG

Teen cook with Teens Cook lasagna
photo by YG

So in that spirit here are two lasagnas without tomato sauce, arguably the least unhealthy thing in classic lasagna (I’ll leave the whole gluten thing for other bloggers). But sometimes it’s nice to have a change.  And when that change is that my daughter is doing the cooking and the results are this good, I don’t question why the least unhealthy thing has been omitted from the recipe.

 Teens Cook Vegetable Lasagna

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 ½ cups milk

½ cup grated parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

2 red bell peppers

1 small zucchini (or a whole bunch of baby zucchinis which is what we had on hand)

1 large tomato

4 ounces mushrooms

6 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 ½ cups ricotta

1 cup mozzarella

Place the red peppers directly on the stove burner (or under the broiler if you have an electric stove) and cook over high heat, turning occasionally for 15 minutes or until the peppers are almost completely black on the outside. Place the blackened peppers in a small bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand 10 minutes to loosen the skin.

When the peppers are in the covered bowl, place the butter and flour in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for 3 minutes or until bubbly. Add ½ cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Add the remaining 1 cup of milk and cook for 7-8 minutes or until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Then go back to the peppers: Peel the skin off and cut the peppers in half. Discard the seeds and cut each half into 2 or 3 strips.

Stem the zucchini and cut it lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices. Cut the top and bottom off the tomato and discard them. Dice the remaining tomato. Cut the mushrooms into ¼ inch thick slices.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Spoon ½ cup of the sauce onto the bottom of an 8 inch square baking pan. Cover the sauce with a laywer of the noodles. Arrange zucchini on top of noodles and cover with ¾ cup of the ricotta. Place the roasted peppers over the ricotta and spread with ½ cup of the sauce. Form another layer of noodles and top with the mushrooms. Spread the remaining ¾ cup of ricotta over the mushrooms and top with the remaining sauce. Place the tomato slices on top and cover the pan with aluminium foil.

Bake the lasagna covered for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top with grated mozzarella. Bake for 10-15 minutes more or until cheese is lightly browned. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Since this is really my food blog (with pictures by my daughter) and thus all the recipes should be dishes I have made, I’m linking to another unconventional lasagna that I came across one day when the cupboard wasn’t exactly bare but I didn’t have the usual and I wanted to use some eggplant. So here it is, the combo of eggplants, béchamel, hazelnut and parsley.

eggplant & hazelnuts--but no tomato sauce in this lasagna photo by REG

eggplant & hazelnuts–but no tomato sauce in this lasagna
photo by REG

The recipe is from Gourmet so here is the epicurious link for Eggplant Lasagne with Parsley Pesto.

I really did find it by going to epicurious and searching eggplant, pasta, and parsley. Nope, I didn’t add tomato sauce to the search.


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