Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cooking Light with Giada De Laurentiis: Asparagus Lasagna

I feel like every family has their "go-to" vegetables they like to have at dinner. Our favorite veggie of choice around here is asparagus. We just throw it on a baking sheet with a little EVOO, salt, pepper and garlic; then toss it in the oven. It is simple and guaranteed to be a hit every single time! Because of our love for asparagus, Giada's recipe for Asparagus Lasagna immediately grabbed my attention. We love asparagus and we love lasagna, therefore there is no doubt we will love the two together. My instincts were right! Even "The Caveman" (aka, my husband) was happy with making dinner that night a meatless meal. Now that is sayin' something!

Serves 8

  • 9 WHOLE WHEAT lasagna sheets OR 1 medium egg plant**
  • 1/2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 (8.5-ounce) tubs sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil;found in produce section)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 (15-ounce)  container FAT FREE Ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups REDUCED FAT  (2%) shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta or 2 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta. Drain pasta.

**If using eggplant, skip the above step. Instead, slice the eggplant lengthwise into very thin sheets. Try to slice them as thin as possible. Use the eggplant slices in place of noodles for the remainder of the recipe.

In a food processor combine the sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Pulse until the mixture is combined. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Set aside.

In a large skillet , add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, onion, and garlic and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the ricotta, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish sprinkle some of the sun-dried tomato mixture on the bottom of the casserole dish. Place some lasagna (or eggplant)sheets, then half asparagus mixture. Next sprinkle some mozzarella cheese and some of the remaining Parmesan. Continue for 1 more layer. Top with lasagna (or eggplant) sheets, some sun-dried tomato mixture, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Bake until the ingredients are warm and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes.

Not only did I take a major risk with my husband by leaving out the pancetta, I replaced the lasagna noodles with eggplant too! It was a noodle-free and meat-free lasagna. And guess what? The Caveman ate it AND liked it! This dish is great if you are into "Meatless Monday" or if you are vegetarian or gluten-free. Even if none of those things apply to you, it is still a satisfying, light dish. I took this lasagna to the extreme by leaving out the noodles, but if you replace regular noodles with whole wheat, you are still doin' your body a favor. It's a smart swap that hardly anyone will notice.

Here is how the "Cookin' Lean Version" compares to the original:

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving/prepared using eggplant):

BEFORE: 528.75 calories;  30.61g fat;  40.33g carbohydrate;  30.28g protein;  9.78g fiber

AFTER: 239.5 calories;  7.2g fat;  26.34g carbohydrate;  25.25g protein;  9.68g fiber

SAVES: 289.25 calories;  23.4g fat;  13.99g carbohydrate

Want to add a little more nutrition to this meal? Have it with a nice glass of red wine! You can bet I did! ENJOY!


  1. This looks amazing, and with the sub of the eggplant, this is something I can make on my current diet... but a few questions...

    4 BUNCHES of Asparagus... what is a bunch? Shirley you do not mean 4 big banded bunches??? Sounds like a lot

    And Sundried tomatoes.... why them and not fresh tomato slices...

    Finally, i am on an odd diet right now (17 day diet). i would have to sub Greek Yogurt for the ricotta... Any thoughts???

  2. sometimes it is just as hard to cook light with Giada than Paual! LOL! You did a great job of making this light and I can't wait to try it! It looks so beautiful

  3. 4 bunches really means about 2 pounds. I agree, when I first saw 4 bunches, I though that was waaaaaaay too much! Sundried tomatoes are used to make sure that layer isn't too runny (since all the water is removed from the tomatoes). And as far as the Greek yogurt substitute, that is an interesting idea. I have never used it as a cheese replacement before, but it might work. I would mix some grated Parm in with it too, maybe. Is cottage cheese an option on the 17 Day diet? Hope this helps. Def let us know how it turns out if you use the Greek yogurt!

  4. Oh this looks wonderful!
    I hope you are enjoying this beautiful week-end and a very happy mother's day to you! :)
    L xo



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