Zucchini Lasagna

 My mom recently relayed to me a recipe for a zucchini lasagna, and I was inspired to give it a try myself based on her description of it. She tried one version, but it wasn't 100% to her taste yet.  Basically, it is a meat sauce lasagna that cleverly uses thin-cut zucchini in place of pasta. This is a great way of cutting back on white flour carbs without sacrificing a lot of flavor.

Some of the issues with her version were the slices not staying in a perfect stack and it was a little bland. My first implementation to keep shape of each slice was to alternate directions of the zucchini layers, causing the fibers to alternate and hold each slice together. Allowing the casserole to rest upon removing it from the oven helped solidify the lasagna as well. Also, gloopy cheese is not only not very healthy, but makes the layers of traditional lasagna slide about. Therefore, I used just a little bit of Parmesan (which I personally believe is the King of cheeses). It has so much flavor in just a little pinch, so I could use less cheese in my lasagna and have great cheese flavor. The best part of this lasagna, in my opinion, was allowing the cheese to get really browned on top. It added a complimentary flavor to the rich but lean meat sauce. Finally, to add more flavor to the final product, I used a flavor memory of my mom's spaghetti sauce, which was sweet thanks to bell peppers and I also added more vegetables to make the sauce more robust. I opted for mushrooms, to compliment the beef, plus black olives for richness. I really think this 2.0 version of zucchini lasagna hits the spot, and you don't even miss the pasta when you have this rich, meaty vegetable sauce, tender zucchini, and piquant Parmesan to accent it all.

Just one tip---don't cut your fingers as many times as I did on the mandolin....

Zucchini Lasagna
Printable Recipe

3 zucchini, each about 8-inches long
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
8 oz white button mushrooms, diced
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 15-oz can no salt added petite diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can no salt added tomato sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp turbinado sugar (raw sugar) (optional)
1 4-oz can sliced black olives
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
spray olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Remove the ends of the zucchini. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin on the thinnest setting, slice the zucchini. Arrange the zucchini on a clean kitchen towel to dry slightly while you prepare the sauce; set aside.

Step 2

3. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Season with a little salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables until they are translucent and tender, about 7 minutes.
4. Add the meat to the vegetable mixture, breaking it up with a spoon. Allow the meat to brown completely, seasoning with salt, pepper, and the herbs while it cooks.
5. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and sugar, if using. Simmer the sauce over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Finish the sauce with the olives and vinegar. Taste for seasoning, making sure to have plenty of salt and pepper because you will need enough salt for the zucchini as well.
6. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch to 9x9-inch non-reactive dish with olive oil spray.
7. Add a few tablespoons of sauce to the bottom of the pan. Shingle a layer of zucchini, avoiding with slices that were first cut from the zucchini because they are completely covered with peel on one side.

Step 7
8. Add a little less than half the sauce over the first layer of zucchini. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp of cheese.
9. In the opposite direction of the first layer of zucchini, shingle in the second layer of zucchini. Add more sauce, leaving a few tablespoons for the top layer. Sprinkle on 1 tbsp of cheese.

Step 9
Step 9

10. Finish with the final layer of zucchini, going in the same direction as the first layer. Add the remaining bit of sauce. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. If the foil touches the sauce, plate a sheet of parchment paper down first because the acids in the tomato sauce will denature the foil.

Step 10
Step 10

11. Bake for 30 minutes, covered in foil. Remove the foil and add the remaining 2 tbsp of cheese. Bake for 15 more minutes, or until the cheese is very brown and the sauce is bubbling. Remove the lasagna from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before cutting it with a sharp knife and serving.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,