After college graduation, I backpacked through Europe with my friend Britt. One of the highlights of our trip was hiking through the olive orchards and vineyards of the Cinque Terre, a gorgeous section of cliffs in the Italian Riveria. My favorite meal there was an incredible pesto lasagna served in Manarola. When I finally became comfortable experimenting in the kitchen, a few years later, the first dish I wanted to perfect was this yummy pasta. It is only natural that the first recipe I created is the subject of my first blog post!
My pesto lasagna is a much lighter version of the one I had in Italy, because there is no heavy cream sauce involved and the pesto itself is made with chicken stock (and a touch of olive oil) and thickened slightly with roasted shallots and garlic. The lasagna is packed with whole wheat lasagna noodles, chicken, and spinach. I usually serve it with a salad and freeze a portion for later. I’m still hoping to head back to Italy at some point to have the real thing, but for now, I’m happy to be able to indulge in this lighter version!
Light Pesto Lasagna with Chicken and Spinach
1 box whole wheat lasagna noodles
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4-5 shallots)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (bake for 5 min at 350ºF)
2 cups fresh basil (1.5 ounces)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (1.5 ounces)
2 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup chicken stock
15 ounces part-skim ricotta
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook lasagna noodles according to the directions on the package.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and cook chicken for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken and add shallots to the same pan; sauté 5 minutes or until the shallots are soft. Add garlic and sauté one additional minute.
Place shallot mixture in a food processor, along with the 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil, pine nuts, basil, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, and chicken stock. Pulse until a smooth pesto forms.
Mix the ricotta, spinach, and egg in a medium bowl until smooth.
To assemble the lasagna, place a layer of 4 noodles in a 13×9-inch pan and top it with the ricotta mixture, half the chicken, half the pesto, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat this layer. Then place the remaining 4 noodles on top and sprinkle evenly with the 2 remaining cups of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350ºF for 45 min. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition: 465 calories, 19.9g fat, 4.3g fiber, and 35.9g protein per serving
Cost: $1.40 per serving