Here's a new way to look at the classic Italian comfort food: Still rich in flavor and heavy on the homemade, without all the carbs and fatty meat. The key lies in the homemade ricotta -- fresh and soft, it makes the whole dish creamier -- and the zucchini, which makes a handy replacement for pasta. This meatless zucchini bake is low cost and not as labor-intensive as you might expect!
Homemade Stovetop Ricotta
2 cups whole organic milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
In a large, heavy, non-reactive pot, mix the milk and salt. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching. It will start to steam and bubble, but you don't want it to boil.
If you have a candy thermometer, measure the temperature. When it reaches about 185 degrees (just before boiling), remove it from the heat.
Add the vinegar and stir gently for one minute; it should start forming curds immediately.
Cover the pot with a piece of cheesecloth and let it sit for at least two hours, longer if possible.
Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it in a bowl or a pan. Scoop the cheese into the colander and let it drain for about two hours, until you like the consistency. If necessary, wrap it in the cloth and squeeze it to remove extra water.
Refrigerate your ricotta in a sealed container and use it within a week.
Grilled Zucchini Bake
Cut two or three medium zucchinis into long, wide slices to resemble lasagna noodles.
Cook the slices on a grill, or in a dry pan on the stovetop, until they are just tender (a very short cooking time).
Layer the zucchini slices in a casserole pan with soy crumbles, organic diced tomatoes, parmesan cheese and ricotta. Add salt, pepper and Italian-style seasonings to taste. If you like your lasagna saucy, try this no-cook pasta sauce or garden fresh pesto.
Bake your "lasagna" at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the top is browned and bubbly.