I love pasta. My family loves pasta. We are conflicted about our strong preference for pasta. Or at least I am. As I've committed to cutting back on the "white stuff" I have definitely turned pasta into more of a special dinner than an everyday event. And, I keep trying to find a whole grain pasta that I can love. In the meantime, I've limited whole grain pasta to use in dishes that feature vegetables and nuts which complement the flavor of the heavier, grainier flavor of whole wheat pasta.
My feeling is that for that once in a while Italian favorite, don't mess with the white stuff. I've said this before, but I just can't subject my family to a delicious, long cooked Bolognese, for example...on top of whole grain pasta. It would be like serving it with a seedy, sprouted, whole grain bread, which though it can be delicious toasted and topped with almond butter or jam, for example, or in a sandwich with turkey, avocado and white bean spread, just doesn't go with a traditional Italian specialty. Some things we just don't mess with. In our house, Bolognese gets white pasta, usually penne, and a baguette. Since a sauce like this is a once in a while dinner around here, I figure that's OK.
I've recently noticed a quiet revolution in the whole wheat pasta area that gives me hope that we can incorporate a little more pasta back in to our regular rotation. Many Italian producers have begun making whole wheat versions that are significantly better in both taste and texture than the first brands I tried a couple of years ago. I think the texture has been the biggest obstacle for me with whole wheat pasta - it tends to be stiffer and chewier than white pasta. And not in a good way.
A couple of recent purchases have put some of those concerns to bed. I recently tried Garofalo brand whole wheat spaghetti, which cooked in about the same amount of time as regular spaghetti, and had much more of a regular spaghetti texture. I made it with roasted vegetables, but I will definitely try this one in more dishes in the future.
I'm sharing this recipe with you straight from the cookbook though I've inserted a few of my own suggestions in brackets. This is one of the few recipes I haven't messed with and usually make exactly as is. I highly recommend Ellie Krieger's book The Food You Crave to anyone looking for recipes that are both healthier and still delicious. I've liked everything I've made from this book, and it also provides the nutrition information (just so you know, I am not being compensated to say this. I really like this book).
For this recipe, I use whatever brand whole wheat lasagna noodles I can find, and I haven't been disappointed in any. In this recipe, the taste and texture of whole wheat work beautifully. This is a hearty vegetarian meal that I have served to children (not just my own, who we know will at least try anything I serve). It's not a weeknight dinner for us, as it takes just a little too long for everyday, but it's a great Sunday evening dinner and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day. It's a lovely presentation although my photo does not do it justice at all.
The recipe includes a home made sauce, but mostly I use a good jarred marinara sauce to speed things up. I have found many brands that are not too high in sodium. Just use your favorite. An eggplant or artichoke sauce would be great too. I find that although the recipe calls for the rolls to either bake sitting upright or flat, the noodles are just a little too wide for them to sit upright easily in the pans I have. If you have a really deep pan, it would be fine. So I usually lay them flat. Once, though, in a fit of ambition, I cut the already cooked lasagna noodles lengthwise down the middle so that they were thinner. When I rolled them up they were not as high when seated upright in the pan. This is actually a better size for smaller children. If you do this, just remember to sit them with the ruffled side up for a nicer presentation.
Portobello Lasagna Rollups with Easy Tomato Sauce
Portobello Lasagna Rollups with Easy Tomato Sauce
(reprinted, with permission, from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger,
Taunton Press, 2008)
12 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 3/4 pound) [W: I have found this is 1 1/2 boxes of whole wheat noodles]
2 teaspoons olive oil
12 ounces portobello mushrooms, chopped [W - you can find these presliced]
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups Easy Tomato Sauce (recipe follows) or store-bought marinara sauce
One 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain well and spread them out on a sheet of aluminum foil or waxed paper to prevent them from sticking [W: I use waxed paper sprayed with cooking spray].
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, stir in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce, and simmer for 2 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, egg, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, a few turns of pepper, and the nutmeg.
Spread 1 cup of the remaining tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto a lasagna noodle. Top with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture, then roll the noodle and stand it up or lay it down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles, ricotta mixture, and mushroom mixture. Spread the remaining 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce over the lasagna rolls. Top with the Parmesan and mozzarella, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.
Serving size: 2 rolls
Calories: 500;Total fat: 18gMono: 4.3g,Poly: 1.2g;Sat: 7.5g,Protein: 26g;Carb: 56g;Fiber: 12g;Chol: 76mg;Sodium: 1110mg
Excellent source of
calcium, fiber, iron, niacin, potassium, protein, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C
Good source of
copper, pantothenic acid, selenium
Easy Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 11/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained and the tomatoes chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and
cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the remaining ingredients and cook,uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
makes 3 cups;Serving size: 1/2 cup
Calories: 94;Total fat: 3gMono: 2g,Poly: 0g;Sat: 0.3g,Protein: 2.5g;Carb: 14g;Fiber: 3g;Chol: 0mg;Sodium: 476mg fiber