Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Lasagna Roll Ups

When I was a little girl, my absolute favorite food was creamy pasta.  Everytime we went out to eat, I got some kind of pasta in cream sauce.  At Bravo, it was Fettuccini Alfredo.  At Amerigos, it was Three Cheese Tortellini with Lump Crabmeat.  At Olive Garden, it was Seafood Alfredo.  It hits all the comfort notes in my mind and made me feel safe, happy, and truly content.  That is until I had my realization that creamy pasta means it is made with heavy cream, butter, and flour which had hardly any nutritional value for me.  Once my journey for healthy living commenced, I began to strive to make food that hits those same comforting notes but also gives my body something to work with.  This is one such recipe!  These little cuties are my Summer Lasagna Roll Ups!

Summer Lasagna Roll Ups

Can't you just taste the melty cheese, sense the chewy of the pasta, and smell the floral basil?   This is also a great recipe for little ones that love to help in the kitchen.  You can slip in some veggies, and they can have fun making the yummy bundles.

The stars of this recipe are: 12 lasagna sheets, parmesan, tomato sauce, part-skim or low fat ricotta cheese, garlic, 1/4 cup of basil leaves plus a few for garnish, and whole milk mozzarella.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and coat the bottom of a casserole dish with tomato sauce.  I used about 1 cup of tomato basil tomato sauce that I had leftover in my fridge.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your noodles.  I usually use whole wheat pasta, but I searched the Kroger high and low with no avail.  Regular pasta will just have to do this time :)

Slice 3 tomatoes and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  I typically seed the tomatoes when I am making a pasta dish, but since this is not a very saucy pasta, I left them just as they are.

I know I rave about tomatoes all the time, but they are so so good for you!  They are packed full of vitamins A, C and beta-carotene to fight all of those free radicals from the summer sun.  They are loaded with lycopene which fights cancer.  They have a high water content which makes you feel fuller faster.  There really is no reason not to rave about tomatoes. 

Pluck your basil leaves from their stems, lay them on top of each other, and roll them as if you were making a cigar.  Cut your leaves into ribbons.

Now, lets make the filling for your roll ups.  In a bowl, mix the 1/3 cup of parmesan, 1 container of ricotta cheese, 2 garlic cloves minced, 3/4 of your basil leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  I used part skim ricotta cheese because whole milk ricotta is high in fat, but ricotta in general is packed with protein similar to Greek yogurt.  I also used Parmesan cheese because it is low in fat and high in flavor.

In these semi healthy/semi-indulgent recipes, I like to use all lower fat items with the exception of one.  In this recipe, I used real mozzarella.  It hits that velvety comfort sensation without using heavy cream.  I used about 1/2 lb of fresh mozzarella to top off our bundles.

Get those kiddies ready.  It is assembly line time!  I have a colander for our pasta, an assembly station, and a rolling station.

Strain your pasta and run cool water over it until it is cool enough to handle.

Step 1: Take your noodle and slather some ricotta along its length.  I spy gorgeous flecks of basil!

Step 2: Lay 2 slices of tomatoes over the ricotta.  Start with one end and roll over the tomato slices until you get to the other end.

Step 3: Place in the casserole dish

Step 4: Lay a slice of mozzarella over the bundle and repeat with the rest of your roll ups.

Drizzle the tops with some heart healthy olive oil and place the dish in the oven.  Bake the bundles for 12-15 minutes.  

Garnish your roll ups with the remaining basil and dish up some comfort food.  

12 Lasagna sheets
1 cup of tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup of basil leaves plus more for garnish, cut into ribbons
1 container of low fat Ricotta
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
3 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 lb mozzarella, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Use a medium sized casserole dish and slather the bottom of the pan with 1 cup of tomato sauce.  Add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water.

In a medium bowl, mix the garlic, ribbons of basil, parmesan, ricotta, salt, and pepper until combined.  Drain your pasta and run the noodles under cool water to allow for handling.  On a cutting board, lay out one noodle and slather it with the ricotta mixture.  Lay 1-2 slices of tomatoes on top and roll the noodle into bundle.  Place each bundle into the casserole dish and lay a piece of mozzarella on top of each bundle.  Drizzle the top with olive oil.

Place the casserole dish into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until the top gets brown and bubbly.  Garnish the top with basil and let the comfort begin!