Sunday 11 May 2008

Creamy Green Lasagne for Beautiful Bones

I am not keen on milk and cream. I prefer juice on my breakfast cereal, usually take dessert without cream and shudder at the idea of drinking a glass of milk. In the past the most palatable way for me to have milk has been with chocolate – on a bowl of cocoa pops, in a chocolate milkshake or in a hot chocolate drink. But I partake of such foods less and less. These days I am even likely to pass up the glass and half of full cream milk in Cadbury’s milk chocolate in favour of Lindt 70% dark chocolate.

While I don’t like milk and cream I do love cheese and yoghurt. But my preferences mean that I find creamy dishes very rich and don’t make a lot of them. However, one dish that I will usually make with a creamy sauce is lasagne. My standard lasagne is vegies and beans in tomato sauce with a cheese sauce on top. Placing cheese sauce through all the layers is a bit rich for me but I do love the soft white sauce under the crispy cheese on top. This weekend I fancied some lasagne but wanted something a bit different, especially after seeing some inspiring vegetable combinations in baked pasta dishes by other bloggers.

So I turned to my recipe books and found one of the recipes that gave me much pleasure in the past: Mollie Katzen’s pesto lasagne from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It was pleasing because it was so full of green pesto, spinach and even lasagne verde. I have had my eye on a broccoli and rocket pesto lately and added this rather than the common basil pesto. It gave the sauce a bit more substance and texture than the usual spinach and cheese combination. But it was still a very rich lasagne that needs a hearty salad such as rocket, tomatoes and beetroot with crimson dressing.

This lasagne is full of cheese – ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. So I thought it would be ideal for Susan at Food Blogga who is asking bloggers to post a calcium-rich recipe to raise awareness of osteoporosis for her Beautiful Bones event. Of course the cheese is full of calcium but, as someone who can never remember liking milk or cream, I think it is important to be aware that this is not the only source.

When I went vegetarian I read enough to know how important it is to eat a varied diet to get all our nutritional requirements. In this dish, calcium is also found in vegetables (spinach, broccoli, rocket), nuts (walnuts), seeds (sunflower), and herbs (parsley). So even though my intake of dairy foods isn’t always that high, it is reassuring to know there are many other sources of calcium in my diet. If you want to know more about osteoporosis and sources of calcium, then you should head over to Food Blogga where Susan has posted some really helpful information.

Green Lasagne with Broccoli and Rocket Pesto
(adapted from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest)
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
350g fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups broccoli and rocket pesto (see below or use basil pesto)
750g (3 cups) light ricotta cheese
¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
handful parsley, finely chopped
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
400g ready cook lasagne
200g mozzarella cheese, grated*
(*or 3 sliced tomatoes and less mozzarella)

Heat oil in large heavy frypan and sauté onions and garlic until soft. I washed and chopped the spinach while I did this so I think it took me about 20 minutes on low heat. If you need to toast the sunflower seeds you could do these while onions cooking but don’t get distracted with other tasks!

Add spinach to onions and stir to combine, then remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, pesto, ricotta, sunflower seeds, parsely and half the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 350 F. To assemble you need a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. I put a smear of filling in the bottom of the dish. Place a layer of lasagne noodles and cover with a third of the filling. Repeat twice. Place final layer of noodle on top and cover with grated mozzarella cheese and the other half of the parmesan. I also gave it a spray of oil but this is optional. If you want to use less cheese you could put a layer of sliced tomatoes on top of the top layer of lasagne noodles and sprinkle some cheese on them as I did in this lasagne.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until the noodles feel cooked when you stick a knife in it. If it is looking too brown on top you could either cover with foil or move to a lower oven shelf. Serve with a tomato and beetroot salad or a tomato sauce.

Broccoli and Rocket Pesto
Makes 1½ cups

250g broccoli (about one head of broccoli)
1 cup rocket leaves (a.k.a. arugula)
1 tbsp fresh oregano (or mint or basil) finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
⅓ cup (40g) walnuts (or pinenuts)
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup vegetable oil (optional – I didn’t use)

Steam broccoli til just soft but still green. Place all ingredients except oil in food processor and blend til smooth. Drizzle oil into mixture and process until well combined. Mine was quite a thick paste which would have needed some seasoning if not being used for lasagne.

On the stereo:
Eisiges Licht: apocalyptic folk and pop: Various Artists


  1. I'm not madly keen on lasagne, particularly with meat. This version, though, I'd happily eat the whole lot!

  2. This green lasagne looks perfect!

  3. Rocket pesto. How alluring! I don't think we eat enough greens anymore than we do calcium. Lovely, Johanna.

  4. I was thinking this would be a perfect dish for Susan's event! It very much is.
    I not a milk lover either but I will drink buttermilk because I had an aunt who loved it and taught me to enjoy it too!
    I've used Enchanted Broccoli Forest but hadn't done this dish - sounds and looks grand.

  5. This looks and sounds wonderful. I'm not a fan of too much white sauce either, so this is great. Love the spinach layer, definelty a must try.

  6. Man, this looks amazing! Bookmarked for later in the week. :)

  7. Oh, this is so good! Making me hungry!

  8. Always in the market for a new pesto and yours sounds very interesting! We love lasagna around our house and I will have to pull Molly's book off the shelf again! I like how you put the seeds, etc. into the mix! This one will be heading to our table soon!

  9. Lovely. I have a vegetarian lasagna recipe that I'm really starting to tire of. This looks like a worthy substitute.

  10. I've made a few vegetarian lasagnes in the past. I'll have to try this one at some point. Very interesting that you include sunflower seeds!

  11. Broccoli has loads of calcium - what a gorgeous green meal.

    Hear, hear on the milk front. I cannot imagine drinking a glass of the stuff, but yoghurt and cheese are a completely different story.

    Perfect for this weather, too.

  12. That looks so good and I have been searching for a green lasagna. My oldest daughter will not eat tomatoes so I think I am going to try this recipe!

  13. I've got 3 of Katzen's books and love them all. . . this is such a lovely lasagne with the pesto! I can't imagine juice on cereal, but I have to agree about the milk vs. yogurt. Though I have no trouble drinking a glass of rice milk on occasion!

  14. Your rocket pesto is sensational, Johanna. I can just imagine how intensely flavorful this lasagna is. But then again, why imagine? I'm just gonna have to make it and taste it for myself!

    You have deliciously shown that it really is easy being green. Thank you for a lovely submission.


  15. thanks AForkful - I'd like to think I could eat the whole lot but this is really too rich :-)

    thanks Romina - love the green!

    thanks Susan - more greens would make a healthier world!

    thanks Tanna - buttermilk sounds like an odd thing to drink as I have only ever seen it used for baking cakes but I think it would have more flavour than plain milk!

    thanks Katie - yes, this does have a different texture to white sauce lasagne

    thanks Wendy - hope you enjoy

    thanks Medena - this would surely fill you up!

    thanks Deb - yes, I also love a different sort of pesto and have been wanting to try this for ages - it needs a little seasoning if served alone on pasta but was a great addition to this lasagne (which is also v good just with mollie's basil pesto which is how I have had it in the past)

    thanks CookinPanda - I love tomato sauce in a pasta but I think I have also got a bit tired of it (I've another lasagne idea I might try soon too)

    thanks Lisa - the seeds taste great - part of the original recipe that was not to be messed with!

    thanks Lucy - I keep my lasagne for winter - that's when I crave the heavier food and the oven heating the kitchen

    thanks Judy - I missed the tomatoes a little but if you are avoiding them, this is a great recipe

    thanks Ricki - yes I love Mollie Katzen's books - the Enchanted Broccoli Forest is one of my first loves and I always find lots of inspiration every time I go back to it

  16. thanks Susan - it is not just easy, it is wonderful being green :-) Hope you do get to try this as it is indeed lovely. Thanks for holding an inspirational event!

  17. Beautiful lasagna! Very appealing in every way!

    I'm the same way with milk, haven't had milk since I was about 2 years old, always hated it, won't buy it or cook/bake with it - but I do love my cheese :)

  18. mmmn, love that green! I'm so glad you found a way to enjoy lasagne despite the dairy phobia!

  19. thanks LisaRene - isn't it odd that many people seem to dislike milk but love cheese - well, they say you are what you eat and cheese is more cultured, n'est ce pas? :-)

    thanks Lysy - yet again this lasagne prooves that green is good :-)


Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and questions. Annoyingly the spammers are bombarding me so I have turned on the pesky captcha code (refresh to find an easy one if you don't like the first one)