Zucchini Lasagna

July 29, 2010

I would like to say I make this dish to use up zucchinis in the summer, but that would not be true. I am usually impatiently waiting for zucchinis to come into season so I can MAKE this dish in particular.

The prep is a bit more involved then what I do for most meals, but it creates LOTS of leftovers or is great for company (primal or not). You can freeze extra in single servings, great for an emergency lunch or meal. I have never had anyone NOT like this dish, including my veggie picky husband!

Full recipe is at the bottom of this post or click here

Zucchini Lasagna

I was in a bit of a hurry making this meal, so I missed a few photos….

(Imaginary photo of meat cooking up in saute pan)

Brown Italian sausage and ground meat in a good sized saute pan. I try and break up the meat as much as I can so there is an even consistency in the final dish and not large chunks of sausage.

Time to start prepping ingredients. One item missing from the photos was mushrooms, I forgot to get those at the store (the husband was far from heartbroken….).

Chop da onions, cry, tell husband you are fine when he asks if you need your motorcycle goggles, sniff, cry, contemplate goggles but decide this is the Crossfit of the kitchen and needs to be toughed out.

Mince your garlic (I use a press..yay for no garlic smelly hands!).

I usually just toss the onions in with the almost browned meat to soften them a bit. If the meat has a lot of excess oil or water, drain it first and then toss the onions in. Hold off on the garlic until just before you add in the tomatoes so it does not burn.

Mince any fresh herbs you might be using. My herb garden is producing so I used quite a variety, but do not feel like you have to buy fresh just for this dish. Because your sausage may have more flavor then others, chop extra and adjust if needed after you taste the sauce later in the process.

Once the meat is thoroughly cooked and the onions softened a bit, add in your garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Add in your herbs and seasonings, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes (and shrooms if you want ‘em). The key to this lasagna is LOW moisture. So if your diced tomatoes have a lot of liquid drain some of this off before adding.

Reduce heat on the pan and allow sauce to simmer and thicken while you finish prep.

Time to make the pasta!!

Using a mandoline (I use this one) or by hand thinly slice your squash. If by hand, cut zuch in half lengthwise and hold with a flat palm on cutting board while you slide a knife through it back and forth carefully. With the mandoline I usually get them down to about 1/8 inch which works great. By hand they are usually more like 1/4 inch which does fine as well. The more veggie picky the folks you are feeding, the thinner you should go.

I do not peel my zucchini except on the top and bottom slices, but if you prefer, peel the whole shebang.

Since zucchini releases moisture while cooked, I tend to lay it out on paper towels to absorb a bit of the moisture while I prep everything else. (see alternative prep option below)

Combine your eggs, grated Parmesan and ricotta cheese.

(like my multicolored farm eggs?)

Grate your mozzarella and lay out all your ingredients for easy prep.

Check your meat sauce for flavor and adjust if necessary. If the sauce is a bit ‘tart’ or acidic, you can toss in a bit of sugar to help cut this. This is a personal preference, some canned tomatoes are a bit too acidic for my taste buds. Sometimes a sweeter onion will offset this, so taste test before adding.

If there is still a lot of moisture in your sauce let it cook down for a few more minutes. You don’t want it bone dry, but you do not want it to have moisture you could pour off.

Lets assemble this bad boy!

You will create three layers in this order:
-Zucchini
-Ricotta Mixture
-Meat Sauce
-Mozzarella

First lay out a third of your zucchini slices.

The zucchini layers do not have to be perfect. Once it cooks you will not notice any gaps or mildly thick sections.

Spread a third of the ricotta mixture…

..a third of the meat sauce…

….and finally a third of the shredded mozzarella.

Repeat these steps two more times.

Bake uncovered in a 375 degree F oven for about 45 minutes. Remove when dish is bubbly throughout and cheese is golden brown.

Let it rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

There may be extra moisture from the zucchini when you slice it, this is normal and seems to vary by zucchini. You will find that leftovers the next day will be more firm and sometimes even better flavored!

*Zucchini additional prep option: Degorging your squash may help reduce moisture in the final dish. I used to do this but tend to skip the step as I am always short on time and fell out of habit.

After slicing generously salt the zucchini slices and set aside to drain. After 30-60 minutes rinse the slices thoroughly and pat as dry as possible. You may want to reduce your salt in the meat sauce if you add this step.

I have found the larger the zucchini’s the more water they seem to hold. The really big ones I don’t use the seeded sections at all (my friend provides some gigantic one’s from their garden each summer).

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Full recipe:

Printable recipe download

Zucchini Lasagna

1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 lb ground beef (or buffalo, elk, deer…)
1 medium onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
1 – 14 oz can of tomato sauce
1 – 14 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes (partially drained)
4-6 medium mushrooms sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar or honey (optional)

Spices (choose your own preferred flavors):
-2 tablespoons fresh Italian Parsley finely chopped
-1 tablespoons fresh oregano chopped (or 1.5 tsp dried)
-2 teaspoons fresh basil chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
-1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
-1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed (optional, my Italian sausage usually has plenty)

1.5 – 2 lbs of zucchini squash (sliced and peeled nets about 1-1.5 lbs total)
2 eggs
1/4 cup of grated parmesan (romano or parmigiana reggiano)
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
16 ounces low moisture mozzarella grated

Brown Italian sausage and ground meat on medium to medium high heat. Drain if needed. To the meat mixture add diced onions and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Add in garlic, stir for 30 seconds. Incorporate tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, salt, and Italian seasonings with meat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.

Slice zucchini into thin horizontal sheets similar to lasagna pasta. Lay out and pat dry on paper towels. Set aside.

Combine ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan and eggs in a bowl until mixed well. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Check meat sauce for flavoring, adjust if necessary (adding sugar to reduce acidity per taste preference). Once the meat sauce liquid has reduced remove from heat and line up all ingredients to assemble the lasagna.

In a 13×9 glass baking dish combine a third of each ingredient in layers as follows:

Zucchini slices
Ricotta mixture
Meat sauce
Mozzarella

Repeat two more times.

Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly throughout and cheese is dark golden brown. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Freezing:
Updated 8/12/12 – I have now successfully frozen this lasagna, both whole and in single servings. I cook it about 80% through, cool completely, and then cover in plastic wrap, foil and freeze. I thaw in fridge and reheat either in oven or microwave. Degorged and cooked zucchini seems to hold up fine. It puts off a small amount of moisture, but otherwise the lasagna holds together well with no change in flavor or texture!
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This post has been included in the Wheatless Wednesday link roundup and Real Food Wednesday!

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Courtney July 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm

This looks super tasty!!! Have you tried degorging the zucchini first before drying it?

Reply

Erin July 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I have actually done that quite a bit, and I thought about including that in the post as an alternative. Its one of those things where sometimes when I degorge (salt the zuch, drain, rinse, and pat dry) it helps the final product, and sometimes it doesn’t. The last 3 or 4 times I have made the lasagna I have skipped the salting step and the results were almost the same, so I just decided to cut down on time. I have found that some zucchinis are worse then others…..if it is leaking moisture as soon as I cut it I might do the extra step.

Thanks for pointing that out….now its available for all just in case!

Reply

Cara @ Health Home and Happiness August 4, 2010 at 7:32 am

That looks great! I’ll admit that I wasn’t patient enough to wait for the garden to produce zucchini- my first lasagna was made from (gasp!) store bought zucchini!

Reply

Paula August 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I’m so lazy, I just cube the zukes and make it more like a casserole rather than a lasagna. I am in the market for a mandolin, so I’ll do your version next time I make this. It looks great.

Reply

Erin August 4, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Hrmmm, now there is an idea. The DH chops it up and makes it pretty much the same thing anyhow, might do that one day when I am tighter on time.

Reply

Erin Elberson August 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm

This tasted fabulous, although mine was very watery and didn’t get the “lasagna” look without sliding apart. I did salt, although only let them sit about 20 minutes.
Regardless, it tasted great! I think Paula’s idea of making it more like a casserole sounds good to lazy me :)
We’ll see if it sets up more tomorrow.
Thanks for the great, naturally gluten free idea!

Reply

Erin August 4, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I am glad the flavor was good. I wish zucchini would be more consistent…lol. Some seem to release a TON of water, other times it is nothing. I might do more research on the absolute BEST way to reduce the moisture.

Thanks for the feedback!!

Reply

Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up August 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I am so excited you shared this recipe! As soon as I pick up a mandolin, I’m trying this out!

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Suzi August 4, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I made zucchini lasagna last Friday night after reading this post. It turned out excellent, even though I didn’t follow the recipe word-for-word. It was more of a make-do-with-what-I’ve-got-around lasagna. I sliced my over-sized zucchini with a knife lengthwise, and I let it hang out while I prepped everything else. I browned my ground beef and Italian sausage separately because it made it quicker/easier with the amount I was using in my cast-iron skillet. I used plenty of garlic, but no onions because of my family’s personal preferences. Also included in the sauce was a combination of tomato paste, tomato sauce, and fresh diced tomatoes, sea salt, ground peppercorns, and fresh Greek oregano. I substituted cream cheese for the ricotta (because the store-bought ricotta ended up being a gross, moldy mess at the last minute, and that’s what I had on hand). The cream cheese was a fantastic substitute, though it did require a hand mixer to combine it with the eggs, parmesan, and herbs (fresh lemon thyme, fresh purple basil, and some more of that Greek oregano). I would most likely go with cream cheese again next time I make this, since I’m more likely to have it around, and my husband and I both thought it was really great. I can’t count how many times we’ve said “that was the BEST lasagna I’ve ever had!” Thank you again for posting this recipe/tutorial! It helped me out a lot! :)

Reply

Karl August 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Thanks for the post, this look great. Once the twins allow me some time to prep the meal I will give it a shot.

Karl

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Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist August 7, 2010 at 8:17 am

Great recipe with zucchini taking over gardens all over the country right now!!

Would love it if you would consider sharing this blog or another post at Monday Mania. Hope to see you there!

Reply

Suzi August 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Hey, Erin!
I made zucchini lasagna again recently, and I wanted to let you know it turned out great! I used raw monterey jack cheese and a bit of raw cheddar (both zero carb) instead of mozzarella, and I used 1 package of cream cheese instead of ricotta. I wasn’t nearly as attentive slicing the zucchini super-thin this time, since we love zucchini in all shapes & sizes in this house. :) It was delicious. I love the versatility. Thanks again!

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jennifer May 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I just have to say this is my go-to recipe everytime I’m craving italian. Its so delicious even non-primal friends love this! I’ve made this several times and never have issues with too much liquid, just make sure you follow her instructions of degorging and removing liquid from the meat. thanks so much for this recipe :-)

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Erin May 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Thank you for giving it a try! This is my go to recipe for cooking for non primal folks, always love showing them you can have really great food with no grains!

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Jeff Pickett November 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

Erin – this recipe is “to die for.”

I’ve now fixed this two times in the past 8 days. Wow – as a single guy, it’s perfect to eat on the weekends – and then I have a few more meals already for me during the work week.

Keep these coming!
Jeff Pickett recently posted..What do Kim Kardashian and the St. Louis Cardinals Have in Common with the Primal/Paleo Lifestyle?My Profile

Reply

Liane December 10, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Erin,
This was amazing. Since it is mid November I had to buy TJ’s zucchini. And think back to my time as a huge baker of all things zucchini – bread, muffins, you name it – I recall the water content being a problem with home grown just picked. So I took the zucchini out of the Trader Joes plastic tray thing and put it on a single layer in the refrigerator overnight. I figured the way my self defrosting fridge dries everything out that is not sealed, it may dehydrate the keenies a bit. It seemed to have worked. Not soupy.

BTW keenies are what my darlin granddaughter called them when she was two. We preserve our nicknames for foods in this family :)

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Brittany February 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hi, We have gone Paleo and cut out all dairy…so I was a bit confused that you use the “traditional” lasagna ingredients just substituting for pasta. I am still trying to get a handle on the different variations of Paleo out there. I am going to try it with zucchini and eggplant since that’s what we have on hand at the moment. I also can’t use any of the soft cheeses since we’ve cut that out. We have found a great almond milk cheese that tastes just like regular cow’s milk cheese that I’ll be using. If there are any suggestions for a non dairy, non soy soft cheese like ricotta I’d greatly appreciate it! Thanks!

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Shannon March 18, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I made this today for my family and it was delicious!! My 21 month old had seconds and my husband was so happy to enjoy his favorite food without breaking our primal lifestyle!! Thank you for posting!!

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OK September 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

This was so great, and we didn’t miss the traditional noodles one bit. I did find it quite wet/soupy when I took it out of the oven, so I just stuck a turkey baster down one corner and sucked some of the access liquid out before cutting it up and serving it. It worked great and was the perfect consistency. I will make this again for sure!

Reply

Laura October 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm

This recipe is fantastic! I made it yesterday to bring to work with me this week. So great! The leftovers are just as delicious. This really hit the spot for me.

I didn’t bother to drain or degorge the zucchini. I used a pan that was big enough to let some water out so when I cut and placed the slices in tupperware it was water free.

Thanks for the awesome recipe!

Reply

mrs. camacho November 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I make a vegan version of this with chopped up Field Roast whole foods veggie sausages, and Daiya non-dairy, non-soy “cheese” (the best fake cheese out there, and the only one without dairy by-products!).

I know it goes against all things paleo, but I have to meet my family’s dietary needs, and my two kids are allergic to milk!

Reply

peggy February 23, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Just made this for dinner – and everyone loved it. Kids included. It was by far the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted. Will definitely be a repeat recipe in my home. Thanks so much!!

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Mama Jenn February 24, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Just made this for tomorrow’s dinner. I thought I could wait until then, but I HAD to try a ‘lil…and…WOW. It’s AMAZING!!! Thank you soo much for posting this, I love any and all ways to use zucchini, and this one is definitely a keeper! Thanks again! :D

Reply

Sue August 1, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I just made this for a friend of mine who had surgery (plus a little extra dish for myself to “test”) SO GOOD! I’m making a full batch for myself this weekend!

Reply

Missy Acevedo February 28, 2014 at 4:37 am

I was wondering if you know the serving size & calorie count. This sounds & looks wonderful & I would live to make it. I am counting calories & trying to lose weight.

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