Filling the kitchen with warm smells is essential on a day that barely gets out of the single digits, temperature-wise. Faced with a surplus of milk, I decided to try my hand at making ricotta cheese — which I had heard was dead easy – then use the results for a pan of lasagna. The results came out great, so I wanted to share the recipe with the rest of you.

Want to try making the homemade ricotta? I combined 5 cups 2% milk and 1 cup half and half, and heated it to just short of boiling. I added 2 TBS fresh lemon juice, stirred to combine, and let it sit for a few minutes, until the milk curdled nicely. I lined a strainer with a wet paper towel, and let the whey drain out of the curds, and voila! Fresh ricotta cheese. Who knew ricotta was so easy to make?

Cynthia’s Whole Wheat Veggie Lasagna

8 oz. whole wheat lasagna noodles
8 oz. shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
15 oz. ricotta cheese [home-made – or just buy it!]
1 large egg
2 cups assorted chopped vegetables
2 cups chopped raw spinach
2 links pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage [optional]
1 jar unsweetened spaghetti sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Fill a large soup kettle half-way with water and bring to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles as directed on package, then drain in a colander.
3. While the noodles cook, chop the veggies, then sauté them about five minutes in a little olive oil. Add spinach and cook briefly, just until spinach is wilted.
4. Optional: Chop two links pre-cooked sausage into quarter rounds and add to veggies now
5. In a large bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the ricotta cheese. Add the veggie/sausage mix and combine. We’ll call this the “filling” now.
6. Now it’s time to assemble everything, in an 8x11” or 9x13” pan.
—-Layer 1: ¼ of the sauce
—-Layer 2: ⅓ of the noodles, ¼ of sauce, ½ of filling, ⅓ of mozzarella
—-Layer 3: ⅓ of the noodles, ¼ of sauce, ½ of filling, ⅓ of mozzarella
—-Layer 4: ⅓ of the noodles, ¼ of sauce, ⅓ of mozzarella
7. Cover pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more, or until cheese on top looks nicely melted.

I made this with Hodgson Mill lasagna noodles, Classico Spicy Red Pepper spaghetti sauce, and Al Fresco Italian chicken sausage. For vegetables, any of the following equals about a half cup: one large grated carrot, ½ zucchini, one large mushroom, ½ large red pepper, ½ medium onion, 1 large broccoli floret. The lasagna shown in the photo is a bit smaller than this recipe; I scaled it down because I was low on noodles. (Cynthia)

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