YO YO YO.
Remind me to never start a blog post with that intro again. HI. It’s me. Your neighborhood healthy comfort makeover lady coming in with a juicy new recipe for you that’s perfect for when you want to impress your family, make your love swoon, comfort a friend or just make cause you freaking love Italian food.
Say HELLO to my healthier turkey lasagna. She’s a beauty, isn’t she?
Surprisingly, this is my first lasagna recipe on the site. I say that because I absolutely love lasagna more than any other Italian food. Back during my college years I had asked my mom to make me a spinach and butternut squash lasagna for my birthday meal; it is still one of my favorite meals of all time. I can remember the warm butternut squash sauce between noodles and tons of mozzarella.
I loved the recipe SO much that instead of sharing the leftovers with any of my roommates, I cut the lasagna up into individual servings, ate it for lunch and dinner for 4 days straight, then froze the remaining slices so that I could enjoy it again the following week.
CALL ME THE SELFISH LASAGNA GIRL.
Or wait, actually don’t.
I decided I wanted to make a classic version of lasagna but with a turkey meat sauce instead of beef and little creative twists here and there. It turned out a million times better than I could have ever expected, so let’s discuss what’s all involved:
Homemade tomato sauce: I like to make this with a homemade tomato basil infused sauce. I use tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to thicken. Then I like to add italian seasoning, oregano, garlic, fennel, a hint of pure maple syrup, nutmeg (a secret Italian ingredient). Finally, I stir in fresh basil to give it a beautiful fresh and flavorful taste. It’s pure love.
Lean ground turkey: I’m a HUGE fan of ground turkey. It’s just so easy to make recipes with and I love the nutritional profile. I use the 94% lean ground turkey, but you could also use 99% lean — just know that it won’t be as flavorful as moist if you end up using the extra lean. Check out other recipes you can use with ground turkey here.
Whole wheat lasagna noodles: I have a feeling that for most of you, whole wheat lasagna noodles are hard to find. They were available at my local grocery store, but just in case they aren’t at yours, know that you can use regular OR gluten free lasagna noodles. You can also buy the whole wheat lasagna noodles online here.
Fresh basil: Between the layers of noodles isn’t just cheese and sauce, but also fresh basil leaves. It adds a little something special to the lasagna and increases the flavor profile.
CHEESE! Also between the layers of noodles is fresh mozzarella cheese, parmesan and a creamy ricotta. This also contributes to the lasagna flavor, so do not skip the cheese (an excellent source of protein!).
How to Freeze Lasagna: Two different ways
Another thing I absolutely love about this meal is that the lasagna is freezer friendly! There are two methods to freezing lasagna:
- Bake first, then freeze. You can either bake it first, then cool to room temperature, slice into servings, place in freezer safe containers and then freeze. Or you can bake it, bring to room temp, and then freeze the entire pan. Just make sure you double wrap it so the lasagna does not dry out. This is assuming you are freezing the entire pan. Once ready to reheat, thaw it out. Then bake, covered at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes or until heated through.
- Freeze before baking: To freeze before baking, simply assemble the lasagna as written in the instructions, then double wrap with plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Once ready to bake, thaw out then bake according to instructions.
Personally I like to cook mine first, then freeze in individual portions, so I can take it out for meals or for lunch as needed. I just reheat my serving in the microwave. YUM.
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do. It’s great for parties and football season too. If you make it, be sure to tag #ambitiouskitchen on Instagram and/or leave a comment and rate the recipe below!
This recipe is part of my best of series, where I test and improve recipes to make them the ‘best ever’. Let me know which recipe you’d like me to make next!
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
The Best Healthy Turkey Lasagna You'll Ever Eat
- For the sauce:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 pound 94% lean ground turkey
- 1 white onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup diced fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the lasagna noodles:
- 10 whole wheat or gluten free lasagna noodles
- For the ricotta mixture:
- 1 (15 ounce) container part skim ricotta
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup diced fresh basil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the layers:
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil, diced
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- To garnish:
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- Fresh basil
Add oil to a large pot or dutch oven and place over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add in the ground turkey and onion and cook until turkey is no longer pink. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, water and pure maple syrup. Next add in fresh herbs & spices: basil, italian seasoning, oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and simmer on low while you cook the lasagna noodles.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for 6-8 minutes or until al dente, then drain and rinse with cold water. Another option is to soak the lasagna noodles in very warm (hot) water for 20-30 minutes if you do not want to boil them. (You can also use no cook lasagna noodles, but they aren't my favorite!)
While the lasagna noodles are boiling, make the ricotta mixture: In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, basil and salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
To assemble the lasagna, spread 1 1/2 cups of the turkey meat sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Place 5 of the cooked lasagna noodles on top. Spread with half of the ricotta cheese mixture, 2 tablespoons diced basil, then top with 1/3 of the mozzarella slices. Next, add 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce on top of the mozzarella and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Repeat layers once more: remaining noodles, ricotta, basil, 1/3 of the mozzarella slices, any remaining meat sauce and 1/4 cup parmesan. Top with remaining mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake covered for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes. If you'd like bubbly, golden brown cheese, broil the top for 2 minutes or until mozzarella is golden brown. Garnish with 1/4 cup parmesan and extra basil. Cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. Serves 12.