Working outdoors on folding tables plating lunch for 130 hungry guests I almost froze. With cool weather and breezes, then sun and warmth, then cold gray clouds threatening rain all in the space of a few hours, Mother Nature showed me she couldn’t make up her mind whether it’s winter or spring. At home, I was happy to have homemade lasagna waiting in the fridge for a warming, hearty dinner.
Whole Wheat Lasagna & No-Boil Noodles
Lasagna used to take hours to make. By the time the sauce simmered, curly noodles were cooked and cooled, cheese grated and filling mixed, it was a long process – longer than most of us have time for these days. And since we prefer whole wheat pasta to white pasta, I wanted to update that too.
Recently I found whole wheat, oven-ready, no-boil lasagna noodles. They are made by my favorite pasta manufacturer, Delallo. I used them in this lasagna recipe with great results. By using whole wheat, no-boil noodles, lower fat chicken sausage for the meat sauce and part skim Ricotta, lighter lasagna is the result.
This recipe for lasagna can be made in about an hour. With another hour in the oven to bake, you can have homemade lasagna on the table in less time than it used to take just to make it. This recipe can also be made ahead in the morning, resting in the refrigerator until baking time.
No-boil lasagna noodles must be one of the best things ever invented. With no cooking required, they are ready to use out of the box. With a texture more like thick crepes, the final dish is lighter. Add good quality crushed organic tomatoes, herbs and cheese and you have rich and satisfying yet lighter lasagna.
Quick, Delicious Sauce
The quick sauce for my lasagna might be juicier that you expect, as the no-boil noodles need liquid to rehydrate. I start with pre-cooked lower fat chicken sausage. After removing the casing, I pulse the sausage in a food processor to grind it up, then add to sautéed onions, garlic, fennel and wine.
Next, add the crushed tomatoes and simmer the sauce for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors. Cool before building the lasagna. If you are in a hurry, just use the sauce as is without simmering (skip the wine). Your lasagna will still be delicious.
After baking, let the lasagna sit for a few minutes before cutting. It will be easier.
Lighter Whole Wheat Lasagna
- 1 tablespoon olive oil 15 ml
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves minced fine
- ¾ teaspoon wild fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
- 6 ounces lower fat pre-cooked chicken sausage 170 grams, spicy Italian style
- 1/3 cup dry red wine 80 ml, optional
- 28 ounces good quality organic crushed tomatoes 794 grams
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- A pinch of red pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 Freshly ground black pepper
- 15 ounces part skim Ricotta I like Polly O brand
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup fresh finely chopped basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped oregano leaves
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Noodles and Cheese
- 8 Whole wheat Delallo no-boil lasagna noodles
- 8 ounces fresh style mozzarella, grated
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- With a small sharp knife, slice down two sides of the sausage links. Peel off the casing and discard. Chop the sausage into chunks. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the sausage chunks until fairly finely, about 12 pulses.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan (4-5 quarts) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, stirring. Add garlic and cook 30-60 seconds, then add the fennel, sausage and red wine. Stir and cook a few minutes until the wine is almost gone, then add the tomatoes, salt and peppers. Swirl a little water in the tomato can to wash it out and pour into the pan. Simmer for a few minutes. Set aside and cool.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the ricotta, Parmesan, herbs egg and seasoning. Set aside.
Lasagna Assembly (4 layers)
- If serving right away. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place about ½ cup of the sauce in the bottom of an 8×8 stoneware or glass baking dish.
- Place two noodles on the bottom. Top with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Layer on 1/3 of the mozzarella. Top with ½ cup of sauce. Next two layers, repeat with noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce. For the top layer, place the last two noodles, cover with the remaining sauce and top with Parmesan.
To Bake Now
- Spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray and cover the baking dish. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes covered. Then remove foil and bake another 30 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
To Bake for Later
- Spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray and cover the baking dish. Place in the refrigerator for a few hours until ready to bake. Two hours before serving, remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 30 minutes covered with foil and 30 minutes without foil. Allow to stand 10 minutes, then slice and serve.