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
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:
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).
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)
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:
Repeat two more times.
Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly throughout and cheese is dark golden brown. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
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!