I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… poor, poor Ben and his experimental cook of a wife [that's me, in case you were confused]. I can’t remember exactly when this was, but it was a couple summers ago. Ben came home from work and I proudly announced that I had made pasta. Like, from scratch. He was super impressed… and then sorely disappointed to discover that I hadn’t made fancy, familiar pasta, but rather zucchini “pasta.” It was something like this: long, thin strips of noodle-like zucchini. Though Ben was a dutiful, sweet husband that night and ate his “pasta” with as much gusto as he could reckon, after dinner was over, he promptly declared “never again.” Frankly, I was pretty glad. I like veggies more than the average person, I think, but when I want pasta, I want pasta. I want pasta like this.
So how did I get from fake-out pasta to this lasagna ridiculousness?
Well, last week I was looking around the fridge and spied some leftover grated zucchini as well as a big ‘ole yellow squash. I did a little googling and to my surprise, most of the pasta recipes involving these adaptable, versicle, hearty veggies that are so awesome in taking on the other flavors of a dish are either for the banned zucchini “pasta” or else include large chunks of squash. Large chunks of squash aren’t really my cup of tea, so I decided to get creative.
The heart of this Summery Squash and Chicken Lasagna is not the layers of luscious shredded cheese, cottage cheese [could also use ricotta], or even the homemade garlicky alfredo sauce. No, the star of the show was the lemony-herb chicken vegetable filling. This filling pairs mild squash with juicy tomatoes, bright parsley, tangy lemon, and just enough chicken to satisfy the meat lovers in your life.
Summery Squash and Chicken Lasagna is the comfort food version of light summer pasta, for sure. We loved that this lasagna wasn’t as heavy as traditional versions are, yet it still added a bit of richness to our evening meal. A richness that was tempered by the sweet, sour, and fresh tastes of summertime produce. Maybe another way to explain that richness, would be to say gold medal greatness, huh? Mhmm, you know what I mean if you were watching Aly Raisman’s gymnastics last night. Gold medal greatness right there… and ta da, right here! And it can be yours, in your very own kitchen. Yay! There will be good things in life when the Olympics are over. And this lasagna is #1 on my list. Enjoy!
for alfredo sauce
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 8 ounces cream cheese [regular or low-fat], softened and cut into 12 pieces
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
for filling #1
- 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded [mine was from a chicken I roasted, but store bought rotisserie chicken would work too]
- 1 cup grated zucchini, packed
- 1 cup grated yellow squash, packed
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped [I used a yellow pear variety]
- 1/4 cup parsley, loosely packed and minced
- zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
for filling #2
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- pinch oregano
- pinch garlic salt
- 8 no-boil lasagna noodles
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8×8 [9x9 should work too] baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Begin by making the alfredo sauce.
Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese piece by piece, stirring until smooth between additions. Mixture may appear curdled, but keep stirring. After about 3 minutes, you’ll be rewarded with a smooth paste. Next, slowly add milk in 1/4 cup increments. Make sure the milk is fully incorporated before adding the next 1/4 cup. Then, stir in parmesan cheese and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, mixing until cheese completely melts. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to thicken, then cover and remove from heat.
Next, combine chicken, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes in a bowl. Fold in parsley, lemon zest and juice, and red pepper. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg, oregano, and garlic salt. Top with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, then mix to combine.
Assemble the lasagna by spreading a thin layer of alfredo sauce [about 1/5 of the total amount] on the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with two [uncooked] lasagna noodles, 1/4 of the cottage cheese mixture, 1/4 of the chicken/squash mixture, and 1/4 of the cheese. Repeat layering sauce, noodles, cottage cheese, chicken/squash, and cheese 3 more times–making 4 layers–then end with a layer of sauce.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until bubbly and brown. Remove from oven and wait 10 minutes before slicing.
Time: 90 minutes [15 minutes active].
Yield: 4-6 servings.