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The only lasagna recipe you'll ever need

PAM ANDERSON | 9/17/2009, 11:20 a.m.
2 Tbs. olive oil 3 garlic cloves, minced...
This master recipe can be turned into three different lasagnas.

USA WEEKEND Food

2 Tbs. olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

1 1/2 Tbs. salt

15 oven-ready lasagna noodles (rippled style, such as Ronzoni) from two 8-ounce boxes

4 cups filling, your choice (see facing page)

1 1/2 tsps. dried basil

12 ounces reduced-fat (not fat-free) cream cheese, divided and softened

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided

3 3/4 cups shredded part-skim or whole milk mozzarella cheese

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheeseSaut garlic over medium-high heat in oil until the garlic starts to sizzle. Add tomatoes and enough water to make a sauce that's neither thin nor gloppy. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 10 minutes (makes a generous 3 cups). Or use 1 25- or 26-ounce jar good-quality marinara sauce.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Dissolve salt in 2 quarts of hot tap water in a 9-by-13-inch lasagna dish. Add noodles; soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain; arrange noodles in a single layer on a baking tray.

Assemble your choice of filling in a bowl, then stir in basil, 8 ounces of cream cheese and 1/4 cup broth.

Mix the remaining cream cheese and broth in a small bowl.

Smear 1/4 cup marinara sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Make four layers in the following order: three lasagna noodles, 3/4 cup marinara, 1 cup of your filling (or a scant cup of the spinach-mushroom filling), 3/4 cup mozzarella, 2 Tbs. Parmesan. Top it all off with the last three noodles, the cream cheese mixture, 3/4 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Spray foil with cooking spray and cover pan.

Bake until bubbly throughout, about 40 to 45 minutes. Leave the lasagna on the same rack and turn the oven to broil. Remove foil and broil until the top is spotty brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven; let it sit for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

SERVES 8 to 12Chicken Filling:

Remove skin and bones from a large cooked chicken and shred enough meat to equal 4 cups.

Seafood Filling:

Mix 16 ounces (2 cups) pasteurized lump crabmeat, patted dry, and 2 cups cooked salad shrimp in a medium bowl.

Spinach-Mushroom Filling:

Thaw (do this in a microwave, if you wish) and squeeze dry 2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach in a colander. Set aside. Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Saut 1 pound of sliced mushrooms, preferably baby bella, until tender and well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add spinach; continue to saut until heated through.Per serving, based on 8 servings:Chicken lasagna: 661 calories, 46g carbohydrates, 48g protein, 32g fat (16.2g saturated), 120mg cholesterol, 3g fiber, 1,148mg sodium

Seafood lasagna: 641 calories, 47g carbohydrates, 50g protein, 29g fat (15.1g saturated), 180mg cholesterol, 3g fiber, 1,390mg sodium

Spinach-mushroom lasagna: 607 calories, 51g carbohydrates, 35g protein, 32g fat (15.5g saturated), 67mg cholesterol, 6g fiber, 1,151mg sodium