Though Laurel now eats a lot more variety than she used to, I still experience a major thrill of victory when I cook a "grownup" meal that she actually loves. Such was the case last week when I decided to whip up lasagna for a casual dinner gathering. There are several things I love about this dish. 1. It's easy. 2. It's awesome (actually, wicked awesome). 3. I ended up tossing in tofu to bump up the protein and because we had a half block kicking around the fridge and no one even noticed it was in there. 4. The béchamel sauce makes it classy and deliciously creamy and is a nice alternative to ricotta. 5. It can be prepped the night before for low stress weekday meals. 6. It renders leftovers. Here's the how to:
Christine's Wicked Awesome Chicken Tofu Lasagna
1. Make the tomato sauce. Cut the chicken breast into small pieces. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large deep skillet. Cook chicken then add diced tomatoes. Toss in crushed tofu and season with coarse salt and pepper to taste. *At this point you could add diced veggies if you want to increase the nutritional content but I kept it simple since we were having a salad and also in the hopes that Laurel would eat it if there wasn't too much "stuff" in it (or, if you're a vegetarian you could swap out the chicken for veggies). Simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
2. Make the béchamel sauce. Heat up the milk in the microwave or in a saucepan; sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until it forms a thick paste. Gradually whisk in the milk and continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat.
3. Assemble. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Ladle a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce on the bottom of a glass 9" x 13" pan. Lay down one layer of no-boil noodles. Spread one third of béchamel sauce on top of noodles, followed by one third of tomato sauce, and a sprinkling of cheese. Repeat process (noodles, béchamel, tomato sauce, shredded cheese) twice more for a total of three layers. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until you get a little bit of brown crusty yumminess on top. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving. (If you're prepping this for the following day, simply cover in foil once assembled and stow in your refrigerator. Allow to stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before you're ready to bake.)
Now, we couldn't wait to eat this so we dove right in (i.e., didn't let it stand 10-15 minutes); it was a bit soupy, so I used a big serving spoon. But it was fantastic, even though the presentation might have been lacking a little on flat plates (alternatively, I suppose we could have served the dish in pasta bowls). Our guest brought a wonderful focaccia bread and it was perfect to sop up the lasagna. A side salad with a simple balsamic vinaigrette was the perfect compliment. Laurel and I also made these killer brownies for dessert.
And Laurel? She kept saying, "Oh mommy, this is sooooooo awesome!" She layered the lasagna on top of her bread and even ate salad. Oh the gratification.
Note: As you can see from the photo (click the thumbnail to enlarge) the shape holds better together as leftovers. And boy oh boy we were thrilled to have leftovers. YUM.