We hope you have a safe and sound night tonight - be sure to enjoy a treat or two (and maybe a trick!), I know we will! This is our first Halloween in this neighborhood and boy were we surprised with how many knocks on the door we got! Last year in Maryland we lived in the country, so we only had a few people - thankfully we had just enough treats and didn't run out! All of the kids were very nice and courteous - over the past few Halloweens, we would rarely even get a thank you!
Since I figured we would be busy handing out treats, I wanted to make a dish for dinner that I could get started ahead of time while not having to worry about answering the door. I thought this Healthier Meat Lasagna, with it's blood red sauce, would be an appropriate meal to have on Halloween!
This recipe has a couple tricks of its own for a twist on your everyday lasagna - while it does use regular whole wheat lasagna noodles, they are first broken in half so they will easily fit in the smaller 8" x 8" baking dish. Instead of boiling the noodles, they are simply soaked in hot tap water until they soften - I didn't know if this was going to turn them gummy or make them hard to work with, but surprisingly enough they were easier to work with I thought! To add some nutrition and bulk up the meat sauce, the recipe sneaks in chunks of eggplant before adding the lean ground sirloin. This gives the vegetable time to soften and break up, so by the time tomato sauce has been added, you really have no idea that there is eggplant hiding inside.
Taking the place of ricotta is a hearty dose of cottage cheese - the small white curds are simply flavored with sharp Parmesan, salt and pepper. The layering process went well and filled up the dish just enough - the lasagna is topped off with a scattering of more Parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheese for that golden cheesy crust on top. Just like any other lasagna, you will want to wait at least 10 minutes or so to give the lasagna a chance to begin to set up. If you cut into it right away, you risk the noodles sliding all over the place and making a mess - however, it would be a delicious mess! I cut into it at the 10 minute mark and probably could have waited another 5 or 10, but we were hungry and wanted to start eating before another knock on the door came! Since we are used to using whole wheat pasta, I couldn't say if it was really a noticeable difference from white pasta, but I think between the generous thick meaty sauce and cheeses, any wheat-y flavor it may have would probably not stand out.
Of course I waited until Jeff's plate was almost licked clean to ask, with my evil grin stretched across my face, how he liked his piece... I first got a heavy sigh, followed by "ugh, don't even tell me, I don't want to know!" Two minutes later, curiosity got the best of him and I had to divulge the news - he was pretty surprised and said he had no idea! Eggplant added to the good list - check! I wonder what will be the next food to tackle?
Healthier Meat Lasagna