Sunday, September 30, 2012

Go Italian to feed a kid

Romano's Macaroni Grill photo

To counter all the effects of dining out for a living, I try to be kind to my body on "off" days, sparing myself from salt, sugar and fat overloading.

I could never do all the work involved in going as far as making the mac nut ricotta in the raw vegan Living Lasagna at Licious Dishes, but I really love Sylvia Thompson's lasagna and it inspired me to sub the usual layers of pasta with layers of sliced zucchini. To make the slicing task easier, you can use a mandoline, but I find it just as easy to use a knife for a small quantity.

My husband sounded leery about the idea and likes the pasta, so in a first pass, we compromised. I did the bottom layer with pasta, and middle and top tiers with zucchini, and neither of us missed a thing.

The beauty of any lasagna recipe is that they're quite forgiving, and this doesn't have to be vegetarian at all. You can muse a meat filling if you want, but you an feel a little better knowing you've included more vegetable than you would have otherwise.

I'm sharing this recipe after being invited by Romano's Macaroni Grill to share an Italian recipe toward a goal of ending childhood hunger.

The restaurant partnered with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to connect kids to 1 Million Meals, 500 meals per post. According to Share our Strength, one in five, or 16 million children, go hungry in America on a regular basis.

The long-term cost to society are:

>> Nationally: According to a report by the Center for American Progress and Brandeis University, “hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed.”

>> Individually: The center also calculated that “the impact of being held back a grade or more in school resulting from hunger and its threat resulted in $6.9 billion in lost income for 2009 dropouts in 2010 and that high school absenteeism led to a loss of $5.8 billion, also in 2010. In total, food insecurity led to a loss of $19.2 billion in (lifetime) earnings in 2010.”

>> Your cost: “it cost every citizen $542 due to the far-reaching consequences of hunger in our nation.” If the number of hungry Americans remains constant, “each individual’s bill for hunger in our nation will amount to about $42,400” on a lifetime basis.

Readers can also visit the restaurant and donate $2 to receive $5 off their next meal. For more information, visit

Here's the recipe:

Spinach Lasagna with Zucchini and Ricotta
3 sheets lasagna pasta
1 large onion, small dice
6 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, unfrozen
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 pound zucchini, sliced thin
15-ounce Ricotta
2 eggs
1 24-ounce jar Mario Batali vodka sauce (or your favorite tomato/spaghetti sauce)
Grated Parmesan to taste

Boil the pasta; remove to a plate. Spread about 2 tablespoons of sauce in a 13-by-9 Pyrex baking dish. Spread pasta on dish
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil. When caramelized, add the spinach. Season to taste.
Layer one-half of filling over pasta. Beat eggs wih ricotta, and layer half of this mixture over vegetables, followed by a layer of one-third of the sauce.
Layer half of zucchini strips.
Create another layer of filling, ricotta, sauce and zucchini.
Cover zucchini with remaining sauce and sprinkle Parmesan over all.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings.

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