High Protein Lasagna

High Protein Lasagna

High protein and low calorie - Who says you can’t eat lasagna on a diet?

When I think of lasagna, I think Stouffers or big family gatherings with giant trays of layers after layers of cheesy, meaty, tomato-y goodness. As an adult with fitness and weight goals, thinking about that lasagna now makes me shudder over the sheer quantity of calories and fat. But, come to find out, cheese is a great source of protein, as is all that ground meat. And with a few small adjustments to a Stouffers, I’ve come up with this High Protein Lasagna recipe so that I can continue enjoying this treat.

I’ve previously recommended ground turkey as my secret to managing calories and protein. I recommend using the leanest ground turkey you can buy – anything over 90% lean. Adding up to 2 lbs of turkey, each of the 6 servings of lasagna will have more than a whole serving turkey, which is great for the protein count. Add on to that the protein from the mozzarella and ricotta and you’ve got a protein rich meal.

high protein lasagna with salad and bread on a plate

One thing I really love about this recipe is that it tastes like a hearty lasagna, and I credit a lot of that to using traditional cheeses. You may find other High Protein Lasagna recipes that substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta, and while that adds even more protein, the ricotta cheese has always been the critical ingredient for my family. Ricotta cheese has a sweetness that permeates the entire dish, while cottage cheese usually creates a tangier flavor. In my opinion, the ricotta is what keeps this lasagna reminiscent of the ones I had as a child.

Tip: I use low fat mozzarella and low fat ricotta to keep calories low and protein high. 

Tip: If you don’t have ground turkey, this recipe would work just as well with lean ground beef (again, it should be at least 90% lean), ground chicken, or a lean turkey, pork, or chicken sausage.

High Protein Lasagna will be your meal prep star

This High Protein Lasagna is one of the best meal prep recipes I’ve found so far. On top of loving lasagna in general, I will take every opportunity I can get to have pasta for lunch. Pasta can be hard to fit into daily calorie counts, so when it does, I’m all for it.

Since this dish takes about an hour to make, I like to make it for Sunday night dinner and then use the leftovers as lunch. Lucky for me, the 9×13 pan and lasagna noodles make it very easy to separate into 6 even servings. The lasagna sheets provide cutting guides so that you can be confident that you’re getting even slices. And because the sauce simmered so long and got really thick, each piece is pretty easy to remove from the pan.

I recommend freezing leftovers as individual servings so that you can reheat in the microwave easier. My 9×13 pan made 6 servings.

Tips for the perfect lasagna tomato sauce

The primary source of flavor for this High Protein Lasagna comes from the meaty, slowly simmered tomato sauce, so it’s critical for the sauce to be delicious. Of course my first recommendation is to choose good tomatoes and tomato sauce to start from. I love to use my smoked canned tomatoes and tomato sauce.   The smokey flavor is a wonderful base for the sauce, and it cooks beautifully into the ground turkey.

Now, ground turkey can be a tough meat to brown. If it’s too wet it has a tendency to turn out very fine, as opposed to larger chunks like you would get from ground beef. Luckily, this recipe doesn’t require perfectly browned ground turkey. In fact, as long as the turkey is cooked through and drained completely, your lasagna will be delicious. This works because the turkey simmers for an extended time in the sauce, picking up all that delicious smoky tomato flavor.

If you’ve read my other posts that include tomato sauce, you know I love to add wine to my sauteed onions when making a tomato sauce. But this time, I chose to save the calories and omit it. With the layers of cheese and noodles, you won’t miss the flavor the wine brings to the sauce. However, if you have the calories to spare, I would recommend adding up to 1 cup of red wine to the sauteed onions when you add the dry spices. Remember to let it boil with the onions for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes so that the alcohol cooks out more quickly. Quickly reducing the wine with the onions will also keep your overall simmer time for the sauce the same.

Tips for layering High Protein Lasagna

Layering High Protein Lasagna. Sounds easy, but it’s tricky business to make even layers. With most recipes, my problem is evenly spreading the cheese over wet, slippery noodles. 

  • Tip 1: Use ready to bake lasagna sheets instead of regular sheets. The hard lasagna sheet offers a firm base to apply your ricotta/mozzarella mixture and keeps it out of the sauce so it’s easier to move it between pieces.  The noodles are indistinguishable after cooking. 
  • Tip 2: Try using three layers of noodles instead of four.  By only making 3 layers of noodles, you only have to divide the ricotta/mozzarella mixture into 2, so it’s easy to keep it even.

     

Another tricky part of this High Protein Lasagna is dividing the sauce. Over 3 layers, you will use the sauce in 4 parts, but because the sauce is so thick after the simmer time, that may not look like enough as you do each individual layer. So how do you combat this? 

  • Tip 3: Take a large ladle full of sauce, put it in a bowl, and set it aside. Now, visually or with a spoon divide the rest of the sauce into 4, and use each fourth as directed. Don’t worry if any layer doesn’t look saucy enough, it will even out when it bakes. Finally, on the final top layer (step 16), add the tomato sauce you set aside earlier. This extra sauce on top will keep the top layer of noodles more moist and will soak through the rest of the lasagna.

     

Finally, the ready to bake lasagna sheets on the top layer of this High Protein Lasagna may come out a little crunchy on the corners. In my experience, this is only a visual problem where the sheets look crunchy, but they don’t feel crunchy when eaten. But if the appearance bothers you, you can prevent this by following tip #3 to reserve a ladle of sauce for the end, or by evenly distributing the mozzarella over the top. The moisture of the mozzarella helps the sheets cook nicely, so just make sure you are evenly distributing it.

How to make High Protein Lasagna

High Protein Lasagna

High Protein Lasagna

Who says you can’t eat lasagna on a diet?
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 597 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 9x13" pan

Ingredients
  

  • 1.75-2 lb ground turkey
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 quart canned tomatoes not drained
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese divided
  • 8 oz Ricotta cheese (low fat recommended)
  • 9 lasagna sheets try "ready to bake"
  • 16 oz jar tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional

  • .5-1 cup dry red wine
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato paste

Instructions
 

Make the Sauce

  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • In a large skillet or dutch oven, add the turkey, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and brown over high heat.
  • Once turkey is cooked through (even if not perfectly browned), remove turkey to a paper towel covered plate and drain remaining fat/liquid from the pan.
  • In the same pan, add up to a half tablespoon of olive or canola oil and sauté diced onion until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, approximately 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic to the onions and saute for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the garlic is just beginning to turn fragrant.
  • Add the oregano and thyme and saute for another minute.
  • Add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pan. Stir well.
  • Add turkey back to pot, stir to combine, and cook on a high simmer for 15-30 minutes. The sauce should be quite thick when finished cooking. If it is still watery, add up to 2 tbsp of tomato paste and simmer until absorbed.
    High Protein Lasagna Sauce In a Dutch Oven

Layer the Lasagna

  • Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
  • In a bowl, combine 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese with the ricotta cheese.
  • Layer a little less than a quarter of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  • Lay out 3 lasagna sheets over the sauce. Don’t worry if they don’t cover it perfectly, they will expand while cooking and fill the space.
  • Cover the lasagna sheets with half of the cheese mixture. Tip: Spread the cheese directly onto the lasagna sheets, using the sheets as a guide for even distribution.
  • Spread another quarter of the sauce over the top of the lasagna.
  • Top with 3 more noodles and repeat steps 12-14.
  • Lay the last 3 noodles over top and spoon over the rest of the sauce.
  • Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and bake for 30 minutes uncovered.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 597kcalCarbohydrates: 84.9gProtein: 34.8gFat: 13.7gSaturated Fat: 5.6gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 1669mgPotassium: 84.9mgFiber: 12.3gSugar: 32.9gCalcium: 386mgIron: 6mg
Keyword high protein, pasta, Tomato, Tomato Sauce, Turkey
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Nutrition Facts
High Protein Lasagna
Serving Size
 
1 slice
Amount per Serving
Calories
597
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
13.7
g
21
%
Saturated Fat
 
5.6
g
35
%
Cholesterol
 
74
mg
25
%
Sodium
 
1669
mg
73
%
Potassium
 
84.9
mg
2
%
Carbohydrates
 
84.9
g
28
%
Fiber
 
12.3
g
51
%
Sugar
 
32.9
g
37
%
Protein
 
34.8
g
70
%
Calcium
 
386
mg
39
%
Iron
 
6
mg
33
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.