How could a dish layered with noodles, meaty sauce and so much creamy cheese be healthy? It turns out a healthy lasagna recipe is possible, and you don’t have to make any flavor sacrifices to get it!
Lasagna typically solidly lands in the classic comfort food category. It’s so rich and cheesy—the perfect warming dish for a cold winter’s day. It’s not exactly known for being good for you, though. But in our version here, five different cheeses come together to give this lightened-up lasagna a fantastic flavor. With a few well-placed ingredient swaps, each serving of this healthy lasagna recipe has only 349 calories. That’s 170 fewer calories per serving than our traditional lasagna recipe.
Ingredients for Healthy Lasagna
- Whole-wheat lasagna noodles: Looking for ways to love whole grains? Use whole-wheat lasagna noodles in this dish. The hearty noodles add a light nutty flavor to the dish.
- Extra-lean ground beef: We use 95% extra-lean ground beef to reduce the fat content in our healthy lasagna recipe. Ground turkey or chicken are lean options for those who want to avoid red meat.
- Breakfast turkey sausage links: Turkey sausage is lean and full of savory flavors. Remove the casings before adding the sausage to the pan. That allows the meat to intermingle with the ground beef, creating a cohesive mixture. You can make turkey breakfast sausage instead if you don’t want to mess with the links.
- Rich meat sauce: After cooking the meat, we add canned tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic cloves, sugar, Italian seasoning and pepper to create a rich meat sauce. It’s as good as any jarred tomato sauce, but much fresher.
- Cheesy filling: The cheese filling combines cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and eggs. Three eggs might seem like a lot, but they act as a binder to firm up the cheese layer, preventing the lasagna from getting watery.
- Cheese topping: Three cheeses just wasn’t enough, so we added a little mozzarella between each layer. On the top, we finish the dish with sliced provolone cheese. It adds a sharp flavor and looks gorgeous when it browns in the oven.
Step 1: Make the meat sauce
In a large skillet, cook the beef and sausage over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, sugar, Italian seasoning and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the skillet, and cook the sauce for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain noodles, and set aside.
Editor’s Tip: Lasagna can turn out watery if the noodles aren’t drained well. Drain the noodles in a colander, and lay each noodle flat on a piece of wax paper or a lightly oiled baking sheet to let the water evaporate.
Step 2: Make the cheese mixture
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Parmesan and parsley. If you haven’t done so already, shred the mozzarella cheese in a separate bowl.
Editor’s Tip: You can buy pre-shredded mozzarella, but we like to grate our own cheese. Freshly grated cheese melts more smoothly, and we think it tastes better.
Step 3: Layer the lasagna
Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce evenly in the dish. Layer with three noodles, half of the cheese mixture, 1-1/3 cups of the meat sauce and 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Repeat the layers a second time. Finish with the remaining noodles and meat sauce.
Step 4: Bake the lasagna
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until bubbly. Remove the foil, and add the provolone slices. Sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with additional parsley.
Healthy Lasagna Variations
- Make it vegetarian: For a meatless option, skip the meat in this healthy lasagna recipe. Instead, make a vegetable lasagna, and add veggies like cooked mushrooms, red peppers or zucchini to the sauce. You can also add spinach directly to the layers. Baby spinach is a fantastic option because it doesn’t require chopping or pre-cooking.
- Change up the noodles: Feel free to use your favorite brand of regular lasagna noodles instead of whole-wheat noodles. Although we didn’t test them, no-cook noodles and gluten-free noodles should work just fine, too.
Can you make healthy lasagna ahead of time?
Yes, you can make healthy lasagna ahead of time. Simply assemble the lasagna, and wrap it in plastic wrap. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. When you’re ready to eat, take the dish out of the fridge while the oven preheats. Then bake it according to the directions.
How to Store Healthy Lasagna
Leftover healthy lasagna keeps for up to five days in the refrigerator. You can cut the lasagna into individual slices, and store them in airtight containers. Reheat on a microwave-safe dish in the microwave until warmed through. For storing whole lasagna, wrap the entire dish with aluminum foil. To reheat, remove the lasagna from the fridge while the oven preheats to 350°. Reheat the lasagna until it’s warmed through, about 30 minutes.
How to Freeze Healthy Lasagna
You have several options for freezing lasagna. Before reheating, it’s best to thaw lasagna in the fridge overnight. Frozen lasagna can take twice as long to heat through.
- Freeze before baking: Cover the unbaked lasagna, and store it in the freezer for up to three months. When you’re ready to eat, let the lasagna thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Then, let it stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake as directed in the main recipe above.
- Freeze after baking: After baking, let the lasagna cool completely. To freeze the entire dish, cover the cooled lasagna, and store it in the freezer for up to three months. To freeze individual portions, cut the cooled lasagna into slices, and wrap them each in foil. Place them in a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag, and store in the freezer for up to three months. After thawing, reheat according to the reheating instructions above.
Healthy Lasagna Tips
What makes this lasagna recipe healthier?
We use reduced-fat cheese, extra-lean ground beef and whole-wheat lasagna noodles to make this lasagna recipe healthier. Lasagna can be high in fat, so any tricks for removing extra fat can make a difference in the nutrient makeup.
What is a healthier substitute for lasagna noodles?
Whole-wheat lasagna noodles are a healthier substitute for lasagna noodles made with refined white flour. The complex carbohydrates in whole-wheat pasta are digested slower than refined pasta. Whole grains also contain more nutrients than refined grains. For a healthy lasagna recipe without pasta, skip the noodles and try a low-carb lasagna with sliced deli meats, or a zucchini lasagna with thinly sliced squash.
Why is my lasagna watery?
Lasagna can become watery for several reasons. The best way to avoid watery lasagna is to drain lasagna noodles before layering. Once cooked and drained, do not rinse the noodles with water—that removes the starches that help the sauce cling to the pasta. Instead, immediately place them in a single layer on a lightly oiled tray. Another way to ensure your lasagna does not turn out watery is to remove the lasagna’s cover during the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking to allow excess water to evaporate. Finally, ricotta and cottage cheese contain moisture, so adding an egg to the cheese mixture helps the cheese layer remain firm and intact.