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  • Writer's pictureLeigh

Lean and Light Pumpkin Lasagna

Move over red sauce! Pumpkin Lasagna is here to take (part of) your space. Yes, "regular" red sauced lasagna is great. Nonetheless, sometimes you want an alternative that's less acidic, less heavy, and smoother tasting. Enter Pumpkin Lasagna. The dish has the required pasta noodles, but the noodles are dressed with a savory-sweet pumpkin sauce instead of the usual tomato sauce. Rather than beef or Italian sausage, Pumpkin Lasagna is kept lean and mild with low-fat ground turkey. Nonetheless, the turkey is far from bland. It's spiced nicely with a mixture of sage, thyme, and garlic on the savory side and cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg on the sweet side. The combination is incredibly good. A little light cream cheese smooths out the sauce and gives it a subtle tang. Not to worry, the Pumpkin Lasagna also features plenty of other cheeses for richness and flavor. You can bake the lasagna in the oven in about an hour, if you like. I prefer to assemble the lasagna early in the day (after lunch) and let it cook in the slow cooker until dinner time. Either cooking option will give you a great dinner.

Pumpkin Sauce

2-3 teaspoons of canola oil

1/2 cup of chopped onion

1-1 1/4 pounds of lean ground turkey (93 percent)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of dried sage

1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of allspice

1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 15-ounce can of solid pack pumpkin

2 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup of white wine

4 ounces (half an 8-ounce block) of low-fat cream cheese

Other Ingredients

9 no-boil/oven ready lasagna noodles

1 15-ounce container of reduced-fat ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups of Italian cheese blend

6 slices of provolone cheese

6-8 fresh chopped sage leaves (optional but good, if you have them)

Heat the oil in a large skillet or chef's pan and add the onion. Cook the onion for a few minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add the ground turkey to the pan, breaking it up well with a spatula. Sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, sage, thyme, garlic powder, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Stir the seasonings into the turkey/onion mixture and continue to cook the mixture until the turkey is cooked through. Add the pumpkin and chicken broth to the pan and stir them into the turkey mixture. Add the wine, stir the mixture, and turn down the heat to a simmer. Let the mixture cook for 10-15 minutes or until thick and reduced by about a third in volume. While the pumpkin sauce is simmering, coat a large casserole dish, a 9 x 13-inch pan, or a 9 x 13-inch slow cooker insert with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the ricotta and 1 cup of the Italian cheese and blend them well.

After the pumpkin sauce has reduced, turn off the heat, cut up the cream cheese into smallish chunks and stir the chunks into the pumpkin sauce gently until the cream cheese has melted into the sauce. Stir the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the sauce, if you think the sauce needs it. Spoon about a cup of the pumpkin sauce into the bottom of the prepared dish. Top the sauce with 3 lasagna noodles. Spread the noodles with half of the ricotta/cheese mixture. Top the cheese mixture with another cup of sauce. Add another layer of noodles. Top the noodles with the remainder of the ricotta/cheese mixture and layer on another cup of sauce. Top the sauce with the final 3 lasagna noodles. Lay the six slices of provolone evenly over the top of the noodles, covering the noodles as much as possible. Top the provolone with the remainder of the pumpkin sauce. Sprinkle the remaining half cup of Italian cheese blend evenly over the final layer of pumpkin sauce. Scatter the chopped sage leaves evenly over the cheese blend.

If you want to cook the lasagna in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 and cover the lasagna pan with a piece of aluminum foil, first coating the side of the foil you will place down on the lasagna with non-stick cooking spray. Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes or until the noodles have absorbed most of the liquid. Remove the foil and continue baking the lasagna until the top is golden, about 15 minutes more. Let the lasagna cool for 15-20 minutes before serving it.

If you prefer to cook the lasagna in the slow cooker, put the filled crock/insert into the slow cooker, put the lid on the slow cooker, and cook the lasagna on high for an hour. Reduce the temperature to low and continue cooking the lasagna until the noodles have absorbed most of the liquid, 2-3 hours more. Partially uncover the lasagna (just turn the lid sideways--you want to vent the steam) and turn the slow cooker to warm for 15 minutes more. Turn off the slow cooker and let the lasagna sit for 10-15 minutes to firm up before serving it.

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