Almost Lasagna

“Get Your Plate into Shape” — that’s the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month, which starts today. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is encouraging Americans to return to the basics of healthy eating by consuming the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy each day.

One way to do that is to add mushrooms to your diet. Thanks to their compatibility with meat in terms of taste and texture, mushrooms can be seamlessly swapped in for a portion of the meat in recipes to bring more vegetables and nutrients to the plate.

For example:
— Chop up your favorite mushroom variety to match the consistency of the ground beef or turkey.
— Cook and season mushrooms the same way you would meat.
— Combine the cooked meat and mushrooms and use the mix to complete your recipe.

The following recipe for Almost Lasagna, adapted from “MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better,” by Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., showcases the “swapability” of mushrooms. It includes a combination of mushrooms and meat in an old favorite to bring an extra serving of vegetables to the dinner table.

Almost Lasagna
1 pound long fusilli pasta or linguine
8 ounces white button mushrooms
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small carrot, diced
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
8 ounces 93 percent lean ground beef
1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes, drained
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons trans-fat free margarine
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions.
Chop mushrooms into ¼-inch pieces. Reserve
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, carrot, onion, and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
Place ground beef in pan and cook over medium-high heat, breaking meat into very small bits.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Add the vegetable mixture to the beef in the skillet. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, and basil; simmer for five minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and parsley. Toss hot pasta with the margarine and return to skillet. Mix with meat sauce. To serve, scoop equal amounts of the ricotta into shallow bowls, top with pasta/sauce mixture.
Tip: You can substitute firm tofu or 100 percent ground turkey breast meat for ground beef.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 449 calories, 11 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 116 milligrams sodium, 64 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 22 grams protein.