Lasagna - the good, the bad, the helpful hints!

This is the original post (see the first post) plus all responses that were originally on WFD. Once it’s moved, all responses are here. So I’m not seeing why it shouldn’t have been put in its own thread.

The original thread was at: Flavoring Rice

So have no idea what you’re talking about!

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You covered all my points! Coax flavor out of every ingredient.

And this may have been mentioned, but freshly grated cheese is much more flavorful than the pre-shredded stuff.

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If you do this, suggest adding additional sauce/sauce thinned with water.

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EDIT:
@Desert-Dan I completely missed the point about the tomatoes. I’m so sorry. But I will leave this here for others.

All below based on a 9x13 Pyrex dish

  1. I grate a 16oz block of Polly-O whole milk mozzarella. I avoid the pre grated because it’s coated in cellulose to keep it from sticking. I prefer the texture when I grate the block.

  2. 1 egg and 1/3 of the grated mozz mixed into 16oz whole milk ricotta. Salt, pepper and some chopped fresh parsley. I don’t use a bechamel since there’s enough moisture in the ricotta, tomato sauce and veggies for my taste. And I’ve tried cottage cheese but it’s too grainy for my taste.

  3. a 10oz package for frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed out well. I make a quick tomato sauce out of 2 14.5oz cans of diced tomatoes in juice, a medium onion chopped fine, a clove or two of garlic. Salt, pepper and a little red pepper flakes. Fresh or dry herb to taste–I like a little basil here. Cook about 10 minutes.

  4. Not sure what’s traditional, but I use 4 layers of noodles (usually Barilla No-boil) with filling between. Finish with a little sauce and cheese on top.

    in bottom of pan a few spoonfuls of sauce to coat
    first layer noodles
    sauce, ricotta mix, spinach, a little mozz
    2nd layer noodles
    sauce, ricotta mix, spinach, a little mozz
    3rd layer noodles
    sauce, ricotta mix, spinach, a little mozz
    4th layer noodles
    rest of sauce, rest of mozz, and a little parm if you like it.

Cover and bake at 350F about 20 mins, take off cover and bake another 25 or so mins until cheese is bubbly and the liquid collects on the sides of the pan.

  1. You can also omit the spinach and use a meat sauce instead. Rest of the steps remain the same. Use a baking pan underneath the Pyrex to catch any spills. Let rest for about 15 mins or so to firm up before cutting or it will all slide apart.
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This recent thread may have some helpful advice: Let's Talk Lasagna With Fresh Pasta...

I am firmly in the pre-cook camp when it comes to fresh pasta in lasagna. The final texture is better and it is much easier to assess how wet the rest of your ingredients should be. That said, here are my answers to the rest of your questions:

  1. I would use whole-milk mozzarella, shredded from a block. Probably 1.5 lbs for a 9x13 Pyrex. I might sub in 8oz of mild provolone if I wanted a little extra flavor.

  2. I usually add an egg to the ricotta mixture, along with a good amount of grated parmesan cheese. However, I only use Calabro ricotta or my own homemade, which tends to be a bit thicker/drier than grocery store brands. Not a fan of cottage cheese in lasagna.

  3. Zucchini (and/or eggplant), spinach and mushrooms make a nice combo. I also like leeks, butternut squash and kale/chard. The key is to cook and drain them thoroughly before adding them to the lasagna. Squeeze all the water out of greens, roast everything else. Onions I would dice and cook with a bit of garlic rather than leaving in larger pieces. Carrots are an absolute no-go for me.

  4. In my experience, a 9x13 Pyrex can’t hold much more than three layers of everything.

  5. Pre-cook your fresh pasta. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Sorry.

I have yet to try no boil lasagna noodles. From what I’ve read, you either have to cover with boiling water for a few minutes and/or amp up the amount of sauce? Otoh, , anything has to be an improvement over trying to fish slippery lasagna noodles out of a pot of boiling water in one piece.

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Easy enough to modify — just use less salt.

Ok, but a cup of parmesan is 1500+mg of salt.

C’mon folks… can we work towards what the OP needs. No salt/tomatoes.

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I don’t think it’s such a big isssue. OP will leave out the parm.

These threads tend to live on much longer than the question posted, so it’s nice to have a range of replies even if some of them don’t exactly fit all the parameters of a problem. The next search for “lasagna” will pop this thread up.

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Then he can cut down on the parm, too. It’s not rocket science :roll_eyes::roll_eyes::roll_eyes:

This is about lasagna. Not rice. There are gazillions of subthreads within HO, and I’m not going to go back through multiple subthreads to find a thread that has nothing to do with lasagna.

This was moved from the WFD thread so it could stand alone and potentially get a wider audience for responses to the OP on WFD.

But thanks ever so much for your super kind remarks.

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Yup, that’s what I did. I made a thinner meat and veg sauce with more Rao’s sauce.

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The biggest problem you are going to run into is that cheeses are going to run your sodium count up. Does she have a range she needs to stay in, per her doctor? For example, when I began to get treated for high blood pressure, my doctor didn’t want to see me go over more than about half the daily recommended allowance for a healthy person (~1150mg). If she needs lower than that (or none), you may need to find a recipe that eschews cheese for bechamel. Here is a slideshow with ideas from the Cooking Light website (to give you a sense of how much bechamel and/or cheese in a given 9x13 lasagna, as well as the amount of sodium (roughly) it will yield per serving):

Some of the recipes have tomato; obviously ignore those. This butternut and vegetable lasagna might be a good place to start (it’s in the slide show too):

Still, the sodium count is on the higher side (depending on what else she is eating for the day, so you may want to find salt free broths for the sauce making and consider cutting the cheese in half (increase the veg instead). Good luck.

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Yeah, I’m not sure lasagne is the best starting spot for low-sodium, tomato-free food.

There are some really nice ideas here; just avoid the ones with tomatoes, but still plenty of choices.

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I don’t know if her doctor gave her a range or not. I’ve been buying the low sodium or no sodium ingredients when I attempt to make her dinner. This seems to be working for that issue. Anything with tomatoes or tomato sauce seems to upset her stomach, so I stay away from that.
I am struggling to come up with dishes that are within my limited cooking skill set, are tasty and fit her dietary requirements. I really don’t want to serve the same thing over and over again, either.
I do want to thank everyone on the forum for your help & suggestions.

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@Desert-Dan not to state the obvious, but there are 2 major “schools” of lasagna – béchamel and ricotta (which also tend to align as Italian-Italian vs Italian-American).

Here’s a nice article about lasagna bolognese (Marcella Hazan’s is a lovely version of it) using fresh pasta – you could replace the tomato bolognese with a white mushroom bolognese, or a vegetable ragu without tomatoes.

Ricotta lasagna is sturdier, and dried noodles are great in it (either no-boil or pre-boil). If you want to control the salt, ricotta is easy to make at home (it’s just curdling milk and straining).

(1) What kind of shredded cheese do you use
Grated parm or pecorino in the béchamel version, whole milk mozzarella in the ricotta version.

(2) Do you mix an egg in with the ricotta cheese?
No – when I make vegetable lasagna it’s for vegetarians who don’t eat eggs. You can add a bit of cornstarch to help it firm up if you want.

(3) What vegetables do you use?
For the ricotta version, diced onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, and well-drained frozen spinach mixed with the sauce.
For vegetarian béchamel lasagna, a variety of mushrooms (like the SK one @linguafood posted).
Another idea is to add layers of long-sliced zucchini or squash or eggplant instead of diced. Roast first so the liquid doesn’t make your lasagna soggy (since you can’t salt in this case).

(4) How many layers are in a traditional vegetable lasagna?
As many as you want. I like more vs less. You can get more fresh pasta layers in a pan than dried, but make sure you have enough of the other layer components.

(5) Any helpful tips or tricks?
One of the nicest vegetable lasagnas I’ve eaten is also the quickest – a friend microwaves all the vegetables instead of sautéing or roasting, which I was shocked by, but I had already eaten and loved the end product before I knew the shortcut!
Roasted red peppers can stand in for tomatoes (though a white lasagna is perfectly lovely). I love the idea of butternut squash too, but I’d roast it to intensify.
If you skip the parm and cut back cheese in general for salt, you can use nutritional yeast and/or cashew paste in the béchamel (soak cashews, drain and puree).
Lasagna roll-ups are easier to assemble, portion, and freeze than a big tray.

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As @Saregama suggests, lasagna is an open ended request, suggesting endless variations.
One tomato free version we’ve recently resurrected can be very simply assembled from jarred ingredients, like this. Using pre-cooked pasta sheets, this dish is easily put together and is absolutely delicious.
Make a cream sauce, add hefty splat of jarred artichoke puree. Grease a baking dish, add smear of sauce, then layer dry pasta sheets with the sauce, shower of parmesan until ingredients are used up. Finish with shower of parmesan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Screen Shot 2022-08-30 at 6.16.56 PM
Screen Shot 2022-08-30 at 6.17.07 PM

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Ooh - like an artichoke dip in lasagna form! Yum!

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