Nourishment: Zucchini Lasagna Experiment
Low carb land is full of meals that are made by switching out a carb filled ingredient, for a lower carb one – think pizza with a cauliflower crust, or spaghetti squash for pasta. I’m almost never happy with these revisions – first, they include things that I don’t love, like cauliflower, squash or zucchini, and the new recipe doesn’t give me the same comfort feeling as the original. But, this lasagna is different. It has no noodles! Instead, slices of baked zucchini provide the support for all the yummy meat and cheese. It’s cheesy, and gooey, and full of Italian spices and flavor. I promise that it will be one of your new go-to’s.
* One thing to note before we begin, is that because this casserole has no noodles there is nothing to soak up any excess moisture. You’re going to want to keep that in mind, and try to make sure that everything that goes in is as dry as possible, so that you get a nice gooey lasagna, and not a pan of lasagna soup.
- 1lb lean ground beef
- 1 onion
- 1 green pepper
- 1 can of sliced mushrooms (drained)
- 1 jar of your favourite marinara
- 4 medium zucchini
- salt, pepper, italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder
- 15oz ricotta
- 16oz mozzarella (shredded)
- 1/4 cup parmesan
- 1 egg
What You do:
- Wash the zucchini and slice them into 1/8 inch slices lengthwise. The last time I made this lasagna I told myself (and my husband) that I wasn’t going to make it again until I bought a mandolin. But here I am, mandolin-less. Making even perfect slices with just a knife kind of sucks. But, let me tell you, they really don’t have to be perfect, really. As consistent as possible is good since you want them to cook at the same rate, but whatever, it will still taste good even if they are not perfect.
- Put the slices in a colander in your sink and salt them. You want to draw out as much water as possible. Leave them there draining for an hour.
- Heat up your oven to 350. Pat the slices dry, place them on a backing rack over a sheet pan and bake them in the over for 20 minutes. The goal here is to get as much water out of the squash as possible. Water is not your friend. If you don’t have baking racks, or you don’t want to turn your oven on, feel free to grill the slices. I like baking them cause I really don’t want to stand at the stove for forever babysitting slices of zucchini.
- Brown your hamburger, and season it with salt, pepper and spices. I’m not terribly helpful in that I never measure when I’m spicing, but I would guess at least a tablespoon of each. I have a spice happy husband. He has never, ever, told me something was too heavily seasoned. Just season to taste for your family. I use super lean meat, so I didn’t drain mine, but if yours is greasy, drain it – remember we’re fighting against too much moisture here. Dump it in a bowl.
- Add a little olive oil to your pan, and your diced onion, peppers and mushrooms. You just want to sweat these a little, soften them up and release some moisture. Is this getting repetitive yet? 🙂 Season your veggies and get them in the bowl with the meat.
- In a separate bowl, mix your ricotta, Parmesan, and egg and season to taste.
- Now you’re ready to assemble, check to make sure that you have your ingredients – baked slices of zucchini, a jar of sauce, bowl of meat and veggie mixture – well seasoned, bowl of cheese mixture – well seasoned, some shredded mozzarella, and something to build your cassaroles in. Because there are just 2 of us willing to eat something other than chicken nuggets and tater tots, I like to make mine in loaf pans. This recipe makes 2. I find that they make 3 nice servings for now, and I put the other, unbaked, in the freezer for another time. (Yay!) If you are cooking for more than 2 people, this recipe makes a very nice 9×9 or 8×8, whichever you prefer.
- Layering time. I start with a little sauce in the bottom to keep the zucchini from sticking. Then, I like to make 2 of each of the layers in each pan, and since I make 2 pans, I try to use about a fourth for each layer. So, a fourth of the zucchini in the bottom of each pan. Then a fourth of the meat/veggie mixture, then cover it with sauce, then a fourth of the cheese mixture. The cheese stuff spreads terribly, so I mostly dot it on, and then try to spread the dots a bit. Then sometimes a little more sauce. I love marinara sauce, but I know we are fighting a moisture battle here, so I try to keep it under control. Then your next layer of zucchini, meat, sauce and cheese. Then cover the whole thing with mozzarella.
- If you want to cook it now – 375 for 45 minutes covered in foil, then 15 minutes without foil.
- If you don’t want to cook it now, it keeps nicely in the fridge for a day or two, or in the freezer for like ever. (Wrap it really well with Saran and foil though, keep the burn off.)
- When it is brown, and bubbly, pull it out and give it 10 minutes to set before cutting and serving.
My husband and I both love this meal. Neither of us love zucchini, but neither of us miss the noodles at all. If anything, we like that we can eat bigger pieces of this lasagna without feeling gross and carb loaded. I think it is good enough to serve to company. If you’re watching calories, you can switch out the ground beef for ground turkey, and use low fat ricotta and mozzarella. If you’re all about the full flavor, try subbing some Italian sausage for some of the ground beef, and go full fat with the cheeses. Yum! Let me know what you think!