Jan 30
2012

Healthy Lasagne Recipe with Turkey, Pesto & Peppers

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Healthy-Lasagne-Recipe-with-Turkey-Pesto &-Peppers-Cookin-Canuck

There is a good reason why lasagna (lasagne) is one of the most popular dishes to make for a group of people. Let’s face it – melted cheese, pasta, tomato sauce and Italian seasonings baked together in one piping hot, layered casserole makes for a crowd-pleaser. However, all the ingredients that make lasagne so darn good are the same ones that cause the buttons on my pants to squeal (please tell me that I’m not the only one out that’s heard that disheartening sound on occasion).

If I am going to continue with this whole healthy eating thing for the long-term (and that is certainly my intention), then I need to find ways to lighten up my favorite dishes. Because, let’s be honest, deprivation is the first step on the road to weight loss failure. Or something like that. What I mean to say is that moderation is key. Capisce?

The question was, how was I going to lighten up lasagne without losing all of the satisfying flavors? The first step was to use whole wheat lasagne noodles, which is really a no-brainer for us. We rarely use anything but whole wheat noodles in our meals. If you are generally not a fan of whole wheat pasta, this is the place to start weaning yourself off of the white stuff. When baked into a casserole, it’s very hard to tell what type of noodle is inside.

The next step was to replace ground beef with a very lean (99% lean) ground turkey. Now, as I explained when I made Baked Pasta Shells with Beef, Sundried Tomatoes & Spinach, I have nothing against beef. In fact, it can be a great way to get some extra iron into your diet. It’s your choice. I bumped up the flavor of the turkey by sauteeing it with onions, garlic and chile flakes.

TurkeyPestoLasagneLS

The real trick was reducing the amount of fat from the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. I chose to completely eliminate the mozzarella cheese and replace the ricotta cheese with low-fat cottage cheese. For an extra layer of flavor, I pureed the cottage cheese with pesto to form a creamy, herb-tinged sauce. When layered with some Parmesan cheese and the rest of the ingredients, my family and I didn’t even miss the extra mozzarella and the higher-fat ricotta cheese.

You will get a good dose of veggies from the marinara sauce, but I wanted even more vitamins and an extra layer of flavor. That’s where the sauteed bell peppers came in – red, yellow and orange. Layered with the lasagne noodles, creamy pesto sauce and fresh basil leaves, the peppers provide a pop of color and fresh flavor.

Okay, so I’m not typically going to provide you with calorie counts and fat contents of recipes (there are plenty of calorie calculators out there, like this one), but I wanted to share the final outcome of all of this recipe finagling, just this one time. Assuming that one pan makes about 10 servings (and that’s still a pretty good sized piece of lasagne), one serving contains 323 calories. Pretty darn good. And the most important thing? It was a hit with my husband and kids.

The recipe:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare lasagna noodles per package instructions, rinse with cold water and lay in a single layer on kitchen towels.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. I use my all-time favorite Cuisinart Everyday Pan for this job. I truly use this pan at least 4 times per week.

Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and red chile flakes, and cook for 1 minute. Turn the heat to medium-high and add ground turkey meat. Cook, breaking up the turkey meat with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Pour off and discard juices. Transfer the onion/turkey meat mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Warm 1 teaspoon olive oil the same skillet, set over medium heat. Add diced bell peppers and cook until beginning to soften.

Turkey Pesto Lasagne Collage 1

Place cottage cheese and pesto into a blender and puree until smooth.

Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Lay a few lasagna noodles in a single layer, slightly overlapping, over top of the sauce. When fitting in the lasagna noodles, it may be necessary to cut some in half lengthwise or crosswise so that they fit properly.

Spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Top with 1/3 of the turkey mixture, 1/3 of the pepper mixture, 1/3 of the sliced basil, an additional 1 cup of marinara sauce and 1/4 of the Parmesan cheese.

Turkey Pesto Lasagne Collage 2

Repeat these layers 2 more times, starting with the lasagna noodles. End with an additional layer of lasagna noodles, and the remaining marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.

TurkeyPestoLasagne5

Cover with foil and cook until the lasagne is bubbling, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and just beginning to brown.

Let rest for 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

TurkeyPestoLasagne6

Other lasagne recipes:
Bell’alimento’s Eggplant Lasagna (Lasagne con Melanzane)
Never Enough Thyme’s Lasagna
Annie’s Eats’ Spicy Kale Lasagna

This is included in Tidy Mom’s I’m Lovin’ It Fridays.

Healthy Lasagne Recipe with Turkey, Pesto & Peppers

Yield: Serves 10

Serving Size: 1/10 of lasagne

From the kitchen of Cookin Canuck. www.cookincanuck.com

Ingredients

  • 1 package (14 oz.) whole-wheat lasagna noodles
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried chile flakes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 16 oz. low-fat cottage cheese
  • 6 tbsp pesto
  • 5 cups marinara sauce (your favorite kind)
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare lasagna noodles per package instructions, rinse with cold water and lay in a single layer on kitchen towels.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and red chile flakes, and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-high and add ground turkey meat. Cook, breaking up the turkey meat with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Pour off and discard juices. Transfer the onion/turkey meat mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  5. Warm 1 teaspoon olive oil the same skillet, set over medium heat. Add diced bell peppers and cook until beginning to soften.
  6. Place cottage cheese and pesto into a blender and puree until smooth.
  7. Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
  8. Lay a few lasagna noodles in a single layer, slightly overlapping, over top of the sauce. When fitting in the lasagna noodles, it may be necessary to cut some in half lengthwise or crosswise so that they fit properly.
  9. Spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Top with 1/3 of the turkey mixture, 1/3 of the pepper mixture, 1/3 of the sliced basil, an additional 1 cup of marinara sauce and 1/4 of the Parmesan cheese.
  10. Repeat these layers 2 more times, starting with the lasagna noodles. End with an additional layer of lasagna noodles, and the remaining marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese.
  11. Cover with foil and cook until the lasagne is bubbling, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and just beginning to brown.
  12. Let rest for 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

Notes

Calories 386 / Total Fat 14.0g / Saturated Fat 4.3g / Cholesterol 57.5mg / Sodium 1066.6mg / Total Carbohydrates 37.7g / Fiber 5.5g / Sugars 0.5g / Protein 27.8g / WW (Old Points) 8 / WW (Points+) 10

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathryn January 30, 2012 at 2:37 am

I’m always looking for ways to lighten up lasagne and this looks great! When I’m making lasagne, I quite often use low fat creme fraiche rather than ricotta and/or mozzarella which I really like but I will have to try with a low fat cottage cheese. I particularly like the idea of mixing it with pesto!

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2 Blog is the New Black January 30, 2012 at 3:48 am

Wow, this look delicious, annnnnd healthy. Great idea to mix the cheese with the pesto (my favorite!). I rarely cook with beef and always sub with turkey and don’t even notice anymore!

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3 the wicked noodle January 30, 2012 at 5:26 am

We always use whole wheat noodles. Even my one picky eater can rarely tell the difference. Ground turkey in place of ground beef is also used quite often. I love all the gorgeous colors of your lasagna!

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4 Maris (In Good Taste) January 30, 2012 at 5:50 am

I think you definitely succeeded in making this healthy and very delicious!

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5 Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables January 30, 2012 at 6:41 am

This looks delicious Dara! I never really crave lasagna but I could totally get into this :)

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6 bridget {bake at 350} January 30, 2012 at 7:19 am

I am so trying this! I rarely make lasagna…and I love it…for that very reason: the squealing buttons. ;)

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7 Eliana January 30, 2012 at 7:20 am

Hmmmm – this healthy spin on lasagne looks so hearty and delicious. I absolutely love it.

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8 Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray January 30, 2012 at 7:29 am

I’m in love with this recipe! Lasagna is one of my favorite meals, and I do everything I can to healthify it too–these suggestions are wonderful, and I’m a big fan of the addition of more veggies. Thanks, Dara. :)

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9 Bev Weidner January 30, 2012 at 7:31 am

Yeah, my heart hurts so good right now.

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10 Sommer@ASpicyPerspective January 30, 2012 at 8:05 am

Don’t laugh Dara, but it had never occurred to me to make lasagna HEALTHY!?! I’ve got to try this right away.

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11 Maria January 30, 2012 at 8:51 am

Lasagne is always a favorite at our house! Love the pesto!

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12 Steve @ the black peppercorn January 30, 2012 at 9:56 am

Looks so tasty! Lasagna is just a classic meal that is great comforting food. I remember my moms lasagna and was so great. I try to replicate it but it is never the same. This looks awesome Dara!

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13 Asiya January 30, 2012 at 10:52 am

Love this! We love eating lasagna but I rarely ever make it b/c it is so high in fat. It’s very difficult to find Halal ground turkey so I will be giving this a try with ground chicken. Thx for sharing!

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14 kelley January 30, 2012 at 11:21 am

I don’t see why you would miss the heavier version. The peppers, ground turkey and pesto sound like a winning combination. Hats off to you for continuing the healthy eating!

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15 Lauren at Keep It Sweet January 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm

This looks amazing and I don’t think I’d miss anything!

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16 KalynsKitchen January 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Sounds very tasty. Lately I am loving kale in lasagna, with turkey Italian sausage!

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17 Asmita January 30, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Wow, that lasagna looks good. What’s great that I can eat this without any guilt!

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18 Curt January 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I love lasagna, and even better when it’s on the healthier side! Very nice photo too by the way!

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19 Roz@weightingfor50 January 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Looks ABSOLUTELY delicous Dara. Please send a big tray of it up here to me in Vancouver!! :) Kidding of course. Have a wonderful week.

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20 Marla January 30, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Squealing buttons…no way! Healthy lasagna….yes please!

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21 Sweetsugarbelle January 30, 2012 at 4:41 pm

No squealing here… Mine SCREAM!!! I will be tryin this!!!

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22 The Cozy Apron January 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Hi Dara! Kudos to you for continuing on with the healthful eating…this lasagna looks delicious. Love you site, and enjoy the creative, healthy and rustic and recipes you share!

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23 Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen January 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

This sounds like just the kind of lasagna my husband would gobble up!

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24 claudia lamascolo/aka pegasuslegend January 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Fabulous photos, recipes and instructions my family would love this one!

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25 Terry January 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I’m tempted to replace the lowfat cottage cheese with nonfat, but maybe I shouldn’t mess with perfection. Thanks!

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26 Lora @cakeduchess January 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I do know that feeling and have certain jeans I wear that give a little more so I can enjoy a little more;)Love the idea of a healthy lasagna and the cottage cheese is a great idea;)

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27 Tickled Red January 31, 2012 at 8:13 am

Girl, this looks sooooo good! The guys will just love this.

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28 Delishhh January 31, 2012 at 10:47 am

I have been substituting a lot of ground turkey instead of beef lately and this looks fabulous to. I need to make my lasagna with turkey next time.

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29 Lana @ Never Enough Thyme January 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm

What a wonderful lasagna, Dara! I especially love the pesto/cottage cheese layer. Brilliant idea!

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30 Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) February 1, 2012 at 8:39 am

I like your healthier version of lasagna. It doesn’t look like you sacrificed any flavor at all. I have been using a combination of pork, beef and turkey in my bolognese ragu but I admit that is just a tiny savings in terms of fat content. Yours looks like a winner.

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31 Megan's Cookin' February 1, 2012 at 8:48 am

What a great lightened up version. I need to make this! My pants have been groaning lately a little to much! ;)

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32 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. February 6, 2012 at 8:12 am

love this one!

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33 Donna February 6, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Wow! “Healthy” and “lasagne” in the same sentence. Looks scrumptious!

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34 Tanya Meinecke February 11, 2012 at 9:35 am

Looks great! Any options for dairy free (cottage cheese)?

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35 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) February 11, 2012 at 9:57 am

Sorry, Tanya – I’m not sure. Perhaps you could play around with pureeing tofu.

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36 Val February 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I made this last night with my boyfriend and it was amazing! The pesto/cottage cheese combo is so delicious I would even use it as a substitute for a creamy pasta sauce! Substituted the chili flakes for cajun, and just used plain basil pasta sauce but overall, came out light, savory and the peppers added a very nice sweetness to it! Definitely a make again.

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37 Laura (Tutti Dolci) February 28, 2012 at 5:41 pm

This sounds so flavorful and a great way to satisfy a lasagne craving without going overboard.

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38 Jessica January 27, 2013 at 3:59 pm

This was the first lasagne I have ever made, and my husband (and I) were both thrilled with the results today! It’s delicious. I do wonder, however, if I messed up on the “healthy” aspect by using a store-bought jarred pesto that lists 24g of fat per 1/4 cup serving. Yikes! And I did all six tbsp of it too. I didn’t want to hold back. Are there lighter pesto’s I should consider for next time? Thanks so much for all of your recipes. You are helping me start to love cooking after many years of avoiding it entirely!

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39 Donna September 26, 2013 at 8:45 pm

LOve the idea of peppers – will try next timme I am making a 9 x 13 of my family ‘s favorite pasta!

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