Low-cal meatless Lasagna Rolls, Stuffed Shells, and Asparagus-Parmesan Risotto

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The Italians really know what they’re doing when it comes to comfort food.  Rich, filling foods that warm you up from the inside, of course it’s best when shared with others. This week, I’ve got some recipes that are bound to bring people to your table.

Since I started making my own pasta, I’ve discovered when your lasagna noodles are that fresh, there’s no need to boil them.  In water, they will boil in about 30 seconds, but since your’e baking it in a sauce, they will good just as well when you’re baking your lasagna.

This means I’ll be making lasagna much more often, because I really hate wrestling those boogers fresh out of the pasta pot into the casserole dish.  For those of you who don’t want to make your own pasta, I’ve learned (far too late) that you can shock the noodles in a bowl of cold water to make them manageable.

That said, on skinnyms.com I found this awesome meatless lasagna rolls at only 240 calories per serving! The recipe itself makes a ton of food at 10 servings, so if you’re not cooking for a crowd, this can easily be cut down, or divide and freeze portions.

This is also great for portion control, in that you can’t say that you had one piece, not mentioning that the one piece was the size of two average-sized ones – I’m not admitting or denying doing this myself.  Even better, this is a great place to incorporate vegetables that little ones (or overgrown kids) wouldn’t otherwise eat.

In my version, I didn’t use whole wheat pasta, so my picture is going to look a little different, but the filling is exactly as I found it.

Lasagna Rolls (from skinnyms.com)

cover 4-11
Portion control never tasted so good!
  • 10 whole wheat lasagna noodles cooked to al dente and drained
  • 1 (24 oz.) jar of marinara sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 6 Cups chopped loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1 Cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups part-skim shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 Cup small curd, low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spread 1 1/4 Cups marinara sauce in a 9×13″ baking dish.

In a large skillet, on medium-low heat, heat the olive oil, then saute garlic until fragrant, about one minute.  Add spinach and saute until wilted, another three minutes or so.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the spinach and garlic with the ricotta, cottage cheese, salt, pepper, egg white, oregano, and 1 cup of the mozzarella.

On a flat surface, lined with parchment paper, arrange the cooked noodles, and spread 1/4 C of the cheese and spinach mixture to cover.  Roll, secure with toothpicks, then place in the baking dish.  When all are in the baking dish, pour in remaining sauce, then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.  Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.

This recipe for stuffed shells is a bunch of guesses gone really right.  I love stuffed shells, but it seems like around here they’re really hard to find, so whenever friends from the home state come to visit, they bring me my fix.  That said, I do my best to make the shells count while I have them.

Sausage Stuffed shells

stuffed shells
You don’t have to heat up your house much with so little time in the oven.
  • 1 box Jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1.5 lbs ground spicy Italian sausage
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 C ricotta
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 C marinara sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.

Cook shells according to package.  Drain, and put in a bowl of cold water so they’ll keep their shape, this also stops them from cooking.

In a large skillet, brown and drain the sausage, returning it to the skillet.  Add the garlic, onion, and pepper, and stir until the veggies have softened.  Turn off the heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, ricotta, seasonings, and Parmesan.  Mix in the sausage and veggies. Pull the shells from the cold water, fill with 2-3 tablespoons of the sausage and cheese mixture, then place in the baking dish.

Sprinkle with remaining sauce and extra cheese, if desired.  Bake for 20 minutes.

My last offering this week is something I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time.  Much of my television consumption is taken in on the Food Network, and I love Top Chef.  On many of their cooking competitions, it seems like the same dish is the kiss of death for every contestant who attempts it: risotto.

At first I was intrigued by this dish, and intimidated by it. All these extraordinarily talented people, and every time any of them decide to wow the judges and prove that they can be the one to perfect this dish, they nearly always get sent home.

Could something that looks so common be that complicated?

After a point, I decided I wanted to try it for myself.  I wanted to feel like a champion chef if it turned out right.  When I did my research and found a version that sounded good, I began understand why it sends so many to their defeat.  The dish itself is very simple to make.

In fact, I think it’s something great to make with children.  The thing is, it’s very time consuming, and it demands constant attention, which I think is what makes this the downfall of cooking competitors.  The key thing is this, once the rice hits your pan, DON’T STOP STIRRING! Stirring is what gives risotto its creamy texture, breaking down the outer starches of the rice with constant movement.

Asparagus and Parmesan Risotto (from laylita.com)

This is great as a side, or a meal. A big bowl of cozy.
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 4 cupchicken or veggie broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place asparagus in boiling water, let boil 2-3 minutes. Drain and place in ice water to keep the bright green color.  Cut off the tips and set aside.  Cut into small pieces, and puree with 1/2 C water.  Strain the puree, keeping the liquid.

In a medium-sized pan, simmer the broth.  Keep it warm as you add it to the risotto.

In a large pan, heat the butter, and saute the garlic and onion until soft.  Add in the uncooked rice and stir to coat with butter.  Stir in the wine, and reduce.  Add 1 cup of the broth, and stir until the broth has reduced.  Continue to stir, and when the broth has cooked down, add another cup.  Continue this process until the broth is used and the rice is tender, about 25 minutes.

Stir in the puree and heavy cream, stirring to cook another 5 minutes. Add asparagus tips and Parmesan, stir well.  Serve topped with additional cheese if desired.

Tip of the week:  When making mashed potatoes, after you’ve drained them and returned them to the hot pan, put the lid back on and let them steam a few minutes,  according to Wolfgang Puck. This dries out the potatoes so that they’ll better soak up the butter and cream while keeping their texture.




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