Turkey Lasagna with Tomato and Creamy Bechamel Sauce

Fall is my favorite season to cook and I'm getting excited to rip into my kitchen with a laundry list of new recipes to try. What better way to welcome the season then whipping up a lasagna. I found this recipe from another blog and the name of the post was "Best Lasagna Everrrrr." Obviously I was intrigued and had to try it for myself. This lasagna is unique in the fact that it's made with turkey, no boil lasagna noodles, a puree of vegetables and the best part - no ricotta filling. It tastes surprisingly light for a lasagna and the vegetable puree adds a depth of flavor and the sauce tastes like it's been simmering all day. The dish is very authentic and tastes like something you'd get from one of your favorite Italian restaurants.

This was my first time using no boil lasagna noodles and they're so convenient and easy I don't think I'll ever go back to the regular stuff again. With the no boil noodles, they blend in perfectly with the filling and every forkful is a perfect bite of hearty sauce and ooey gooey cheese. See.....the noodles are almost invisible in the picture above...yummm-meee! The overall texture of the lasagna is very smooth and creamy and the combination of tangy tomato sauce and bechamel are the perfect marriage.

This dish is definitely worthy to serve to company and made even more special served alongside homemade buttery garlic knots - which I'll post about later. I made this for my friends and they enjoyed the lasagna very much and some even went back for seconds :) By the end of the night, half the lasagna pan was empty and only a few garlic knots remained. I'd say dinner was a success and everyone left with a happy and full tummy.

Turkey Lasagna with Tomato and Creamy Bechamel Sauce
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
8 to 9 servings

Red Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced (see garlic tutorial here)
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried oregano and basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim, I used 2%)
5 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
9 lasagna noodles, boiled for half the time on the box (or use 12 of the no-boil noodles, of which I far prefer the Barilla brand)
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan (3 Qt) with cooking spray or with a napkin dipped lightly in olive oil and set aside.
In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with a wooden spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. When turkey is cooked through, drain the grease and set aside.
In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When oil/butter is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly. When the garlic is lightly browned, but NOT burned, add the onion and mushrooms. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft and browned and the fluid has mostly cooked out. Remove from heat and either using a handheld immersion blender or transferring the vegetables to a blender, blend the vegetables to a paste-like mixture. Return the pot to the heat (pour the pureed vegetables back in, if using a stand-alone blender) and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir. Cover and let the sauce sauce simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved ground turkey and season with more S&P to taste.
While the red sauce simmers, if using lasagna noodles that need to be boiled, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the noodles for half the time suggested on the box. Once the noodles are cooked, drain, but do not rinse. Add a dab of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. If you are using no-boil noodles, you can skip this step.
Also while the red sauce is cooking, melt the four tablespoons butter and when melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine and letting the mixture cook, while stirring, for a minute or two. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk the white sauce, ensuring it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan, while cooking it over medium heat. Continue slowly stirring or whisking while the white sauce cooks and thickens quite a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Adjust with S&P to taste
To begin layering the lasagna, keep in mind that you’ll have three layers of noodles as well as three layers of the sauces and cheese – so plan on splitting all the sauce and cheese piles into thirds so you don’t run out at the end! (Dividing cheese into thirds was basically 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1 1/4 cup of Mozzarella for each of the three layers) On the bottom of your lightly greased baking pan, layer three pre-boiled noodles or four no-boil noodles, slightly overlapping the no-boil noodles. Layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges and top with another layer of noodles. Again, layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and top with the final layer of noodles. Layer the sauces and cheeses again.
Cover the lasagna with a greased layer of aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is nice and bubbly. Remove the foil and turn on broil and melt cheese until nice and brown. Let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

How to freeze lasagna from Foodie Bride blog:
On lasagna night at home, I make a big ol’ mess. I bake a full batch in a 9×13 pan even though it would probably serve 8-10 people. I refrigerate the foil-covered leftovers in the pan overnight so it firms up. I then cut the cold lasagna into single portions, wrap each square in two layers of plastic wrap, and freeze on a baking sheet for about an hour or so. Once frozen solid, I’ll put the frozen squares in a large freezer bag. I put two squares in the fridge the night before the next lasagna night – reheating in a small baking dish is super easy and clean up is a breeze. And the best part is that I only have to do “lasagna dishes” once.


Reeni said...

That is so hearty and delicious looking! I could curl up with a big plate of that and a movie and be so happy!