Sweet Potato Lasagna

As the evenings cool and we pull out our comfy sweaters, it’s time to think about warming foods that can bridge us into the new season. This sweet potato lasagna is a perfect transitional dish that pairs the lightness of summer with some warmth of the fall. A real comfort food, it’s filled with herbs, vegetables, and a rich marinara sauce. This lasagna is lighter than the classic dish but is just as delicious.The beautiful vibrant flavors from the sweet potatoes are paired perfectly with layers of bright lemony spinach, warming tomato sauce, a creamy filling, floral herbs, and tender earthy lentil pasta to create a satisfying dish that’s good for you too. Each savory bite provides immune-boosting, energy-producing, and inflammation-reducing properties to satisfy you from head to toe.

Ingredients

Sweet Potatoes

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, 1-inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Sauce

  • 1 25 oz glass jar of tomato sauce
    • Ensure there is no added sugar or thickeners. Added herbs, spices and olive oil is great.
    • Buy organic when possible
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • The dried basil and oregano can be switched out for 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Spinach

  • 20 oz of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
    • You can substitute with 3 large bunches (2 pounds) of sauteed fresh spinach
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 1 12 oz container of ricotta or vegan ricotta*
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced, or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

*Vegan Ricotta

  • 12 oz of firm tofu, drained
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon oil (avocado, olive, sunflower, flax seed)

Blend all ingredients in high-powered blender or food processor

Pasta and Topping

  • 1 8 oz box of lentil lasagna noodles, ready for oven (my favorite brand is Explore)
    • These can be replaced with whole wheat or other gluten free options. Buying oven-ready will save time.
  • 1/2 cup parmesan (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place prepared sweet potatoes in a pot of room temperature water over high heat. Allow to come to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes until sweet potatoes are very soft.
  3. While the sweet potatoes are boiling:
  4. Mix the tomato sauce with the dried herbs, garlic and seasoning, set aside.
  5. Drain and squeeze out extra water from the thawed frozen spinach and mix with salt, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.
  6. Mix filling ingredients together, and set aside.
  7. Once sweet potatoes are cooked, drain and place in a bowl with salt, nutmeg and oil and roughly mash. It does not need to be completely smooth–just so there are no large pieces. This allows for the lasagna layers to stack easier.
  8. Using a 9×13 pan, spread ¼ cup of sauce on the bottom.
  9. Layer as follows: 3 noodles, ½ spinach, ½ filling, ½ sweet potatoes, 1/3 sauce, repeat layer, top with last 3 noodles, sauce and sprinkle with parmesan.
  10. Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.
  11. Remove foil turn up oven to 450 and allow top to brown for 5 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Highlights

Sweet Potato: Packed full of beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A). Vitamin A is integral for vision and immune function, as well as skin and bone health. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and boost immune function by increasing disease-fighting cells in the body and assist cells in protection against viruses. Scientists have also reported that carotenoid-rich foods (orange foods) can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer (especially in the lungs, esophagus, and stomach), and can improve immune system function. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response, by reducing oxidative stress.

Nutmeg:  Shown to boost our mood by increasing levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine to decrease stress. It has also been shown to help relieve pain and relax blood vessels to lower blood pressure.

Olive Oil: A rich source of monounsaturated fatsolive oil contains antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. Olive oil also promotes gut health.

Tomatoes: A great source of lycopene that helps reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease and protect skin integrity. Cooking tomatoes in a healthy fat increases the amount of available lycopene that the body will absorb.

Basil: Contains a range of protective vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, and K, as well as essential oils with high antioxidant properties. The phytochemicals in basil are known to reduce the risk of cancer, prevent age-related macular degeneration, and support liver and cardiovascular health. A unique component of basil is its ability to enhance and preserve the healthful properties of other ingredients it is combined with.

Oregano: It is a great antibacterial that is packed full of phytonutrients to fight infection as well as help settle digestion. Also contains high levels of antioxidants to help prevent oxidative damage to cells and reduce inflammation. Oregano is also a great source of vitamin K and calcium to help with wound healing and healthy bones.

SpinachGreens such as kale, spinach, collards, mustard greens, arugula, and chard have been shown to protect bones from osteoporosis. They can reduce inflammation, support a healthy gut, strengthen the immune system, protect cognition and supply a high amount of antioxidants.

Citrus juice and zest: Packed full of a multitude of nutrients such as vitamin C, flavonoids, and fiber, which aid in vascular protection, improve gastrointestinal function and health, and can reduce inflammation. The vitamin C in the lemon juice will aid in the intestinal absorption of the iron in the spinach and peas.

Garlic: Considered a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the “good” bacteria in our gut and promotes a healthy digestive system. Research supports that the compounds in garlic, such as allicin, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and cardio-protective properties. If you chop your garlic 10-15 minutes before using, it will have the maximum amount of active allicin.

Lentils: Good source of plant protein and folate. In areas around the world where people tend to live the longest (so-called “Blue Zones”) beans are a common food staple. Lentils are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is considered a prebiotic that promotes gut health.

 

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