Noodle-Free Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini Lasagna
Shaunia Mckenzie/EyeEm/Getty Images
Total Time 75 min
Prep 45 min, Cook 30 min
Yield 8 servings (342 calories each)

When you think of lasagna, the signature wide, flat pasta noodles come to mind. In this recipe, zucchini replaces the noodles, boosting the nutritional value while providing a slightly different texture than a traditional lasagna. Plus, the zucchini drastically lowers the carb count. This recipe can be made without the meat, making it the perfect vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds 
  • zucchini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons 
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces spinach, frozen and chopped
  • 1 pound fresh ground beef (preferably 90/10 percent lean)
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese, whole milk preferred
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • 2 cups tomato-based pasta sauce (use any variety with no
  • added sugars)
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese (low sodium), shredded
  • 1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare the Zucchini "Noodles":

  1. Slice the zucchini into strips, length-wise. The strips should be about 1/8-inch thick. A mandoline-type slicer works best. Discard any pieces that are mostly peel.
  2. Put the zucchini strips into a colander and sprinkle them with salt. Toss together to coat. 
  3. After 10 to 15 minutes, toss the strips again so that the brine will evenly coat the strips. Drain for at least 1 hour.
  1. Spread the zucchini strips on a paper towel or a cotton tea towel to absorb most of the surface liquid.

Make the Sauce and Filling:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and spinach. Cook until the onions are transparent, but before the bell peppers brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. If you're making this without meat, move on to the next step. Otherwise, add the ground beef to the skillet. Be sure to break up the ground meat into crumbles with a spatula or wooden spoon as it cooks. Stir occasionally and cook until the meat is brown. Drain and set aside.
  4. Combine the ricotta, eggs, and basil or parsley in a separate bowl. 

Lasagna Assembly:

  1. Put 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan.
  2. Combine the remaining sauce with the drained vegetable and ground beef mixture (or just vegetables if not using beef). Set aside.
  3. Cover the sauce in the pan with a layer of zucchini strips. Then cover the zucchini with about 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the sauce mixture, and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.
  1. For the second layer, arrange the zucchini strips in the other direction, perpendicular to the first layer. Repeat with ricotta, sauce, and mozzarella.
  2. Alternate direction of zucchini again for the third layer, and finish with remaining ricotta, sauce, and mozzarella. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
  1. Bake the lasagna until the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes. (Note: if you refrigerate the lasagna before baking, cover it with foil and bake for 15 minutes covered, then remove the foil and cook an additional 30 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.)
  2. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 to 15 minutes. This will allow the lasagna to cool just enough to ensure cutting and serving is easier and less messy.

Cooking Tips

Arranging the layers of zucchini strips in different directions as this recipe calls for may make cutting it a little messy. If you'd like to avoid this, you can make lasagna roll-ups. Instead of layering the zucchini across the pan, you top each slice with sauce, then the ricotta mixture, and sprinkle mozzarella to finish. Roll the zucchini strip up and place in the baking pan with the opening facing upward. Bake as instructed above.

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