Hey there ZUCCHINI and/or LASAGNA lovers, here is a hearty recipe for the Italian in each of us, still full of flavor and sans the pasta! My husband loooooooves lasagna and has been a bit bitter that I have never made it for him. Homemade lasagna takes a lot of time and effort (making and cutting the pasta dough, sauce, etc) so to cut down on time, gluten and starch, I used strips of zucchini instead of pasta/lasagna noodles and my own tomato-based pasta sauce that I make in large batches and freeze.
So, at the local farmer’s market, zucchini are CHEAP right now and cheap, organic produce is how I roll! Zucchini are really good for you too, here are some health benefits of zucchini (shout out to OrganicFacts.net)! So I bought a bunch of seriously large zucchini in the hopes of making some really yummy and healthy dishes.
Zucchini Lasagna (serves 4-6, prep time: 15-20 min, cook time: 50 min)
Ingredients (non-dairy and non-meat-eaters substitute with the appropriate non-dairy and/or non-meat items and let me know in the comments how it turned out!):
1 extra-large zucchini** (mine was HUGE, like the size of my inner forearm from the inside of my elbow to the top of my palm right where my fingers start (13-15 inches) and about as wide as the same palm (3-4 inches)… ( )= I’m ballparking here
1 lb ground beef, turkey or other protein substance
2.5-3 cups seasoned pasta sauce (mine was previously made with organic diced tomatoes which I simmered with basil, salt, garlic, onion, and a dash of balsamic) but any jar of tomato-based sauce will do
8 oz Mozzarella cheese (it will need to be shredded)
15 oz Ricotta cheese (I only needed about 12 oz. though)
1 T garlic powder
1/2 T onion powder
1-2 T salt (some for meat and some for zucchini)
1 T avocado oil
1 9×9 in pan for baking
1 sauce pan (enough to hold 1 lb protein and 3 cups of pasta sauce)
Preheat oven to 350*F, brown meat/protein on low-medium temp in a sauce pan and add some salt, the garlic powder and onion powder while its cooking. Once it is browned, add your 3 cups of pasta sauce to the meat and simmer, I will refer to this meaty sauce as “meat sauce”
While meat is browning, cut up your zucchini into thin, long strips. I tried to cut mine really thin because I personally like several thin layers vs a few thick layers but i ended up cutting them thicker anyways (Doh!). It doesn’t have to be perfect, you can cover any thinness of your zucchini layer with another piece of zucchini anyway
Once you cut up your zucchini, grate your mozzarella so it is ready. While you’re at it, take the lid of your ricotta (assuming it comes with a lid) and make sure that is ready to go as well and have your salt on deck because you’ll need to sprinkle salt on each layer of raw zucchini.
OK, so once you are prepped and ready, coat 9×9 in pan with 1 T avocado oil (if you don’t have avocado oil, use a high smoke point oil that is not hydrogenated and don’t use extra virgin olive oil because the heat in the oven might be too hot for your olive oil). Then add a ladle full of “meat sauce” to your 9×9 pan and move it all around the pan like you did with the oil. Now you are ready for your first layer of zucchini. Place your first layer of strips to cover the whole pan, I recommend 1 layer only but if you do it any differently, let me know how it turns out in the comments!
Once you see no more meat sauce and only zucchini, add a sprinkle of salt on the zucchini (this will help its flavor (as long as your meat sauce isn’t too salty). After the salt, add another ladle or two of meat sauce. Next is the ricotta, I grad it with my hands and sprinkle blobs onto my lasagna, you can also spread and even layer if you like as well. After the ricotta, grab a handful of mozzarella and sprinkle on top (don’t neglect the corners of your pan because they need love too). Now you are ready for your 2nd layer of zucchini…
So it goes… oil to coat pan, then meat sauce, then zucchini layer (salt), then meat sauce, then ricotta, then mozzarella, then start over with zucchini layer (salt), meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, etc. until you get to the top of the pan. You’ll want to end the last layer of zucchini with meat sauce, ricotta and mozzarella and not just plain zucchini. Don’t fill past the top of the pan! If you have extra of everything, make a second zucchini lasagna in a separate pan. Lastly, you’ll want to use a fork to stab the top of the unbaked lasagna all over, as far as the fork will go to the bottom of the pan (this will help the juices move all around and distribute more even cooking). Then cover with foil or a lid and put in the the oven to bake.
Bake your zucchini lasagna for 50 minutes
**Please be aware that zucchini has a lot of water in it and that when this lasagna bakes, it will develop its own little pool of watery meat sauce (tasty sauce but not attractive on a plate), my husband and I didn’t mind it at all but if you do mind or are making it for guests, you can always scoop out the watery sauce after it is done cooking (or during) and use it in another dish or toss it out
Have you made any healthy takes on old favorites? Leave a comment below, I’d love to read about it!