Zucchini Lasagna

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Zucchini Lasagna is, hands down, ZB's favorite food! So it works out absolutely perfectly that his birthday is at the end of July; when I usually have a couple zucchini that are the size of baseball bats!

Before you start thinking that we love zucchini lasagna because it's super healthy, this recipe has all of the cheesy goodness of a traditional lasagna, but it's just a tinyyy bit fresher and lighter thanks to using zucchini instead of noodles. My vote is for full fat ricotta and mozzarella, because I mean, go big or go home; but you can use reduced fat if that's your jam. And before you start thinking this is just a quick little dinner you can whip up on a weeknight; be warned, this recipe is not for the faint of heart! The steps are easy and I believe in you, but there are kind of a lot of steps!

I started with my mom's lasagna recipe and made a few modifications over the years based on what I have found works best for this zucchini version! It turns out that this is a tough recipe to blog because I rarely measure and I make it a tiny bit differently every time, but I've done my best within this post to give you some tips and options to end up with a bangin' lasagna.

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Before I dive into the recipe, there's one very important step when making zucchini lasagna. Use whatever filling you like, whatever sauce you like, but do NOT skip this step!

Since zucchini has such a high water content, you have to get some of that out before building the lasagna, or else all of that water will seep out when you bake it and make for a soupy mess. Over the years, I've tried every method I could think of; baking, boiling, salting the zucchini slices and letting them sit. In the end, I've determined that the PERFECT method is grilling. It allows you to cook a ton of zucchini at one time, and on a screamin' hot grill, the zucchini cooks really fast and kind of dries out some.

Now onto the cheesy goodness!


Zucchini Lasagna

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Ingredients:

2-3 giant zucchini or yellow squash

4-5 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like to use a thick spaghetti sauce with ground beef, recipe coming soon; or use store bought, or this quick and dirty semi-homemade version, below)

- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 6oz can tomato paste, 1 can water
- 1 jar of your favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce
- Italian seasoning, dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes

16 oz ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 egg

dried oregano
 

Instructions:

Cut the zucchini

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  1. The goal is to have enough slices to lay them end-to-end in your pan x 3 (3 layers of lasagna zoodles). If you have a little more or a little less, the world will not end.
  2. Cut both ends off of the zucchini/squash, and if they are really big, cut them in half. Stand a hunk on your cutting board and starting from one side, cut slices (1/4" - 1/2" thick) to form your lasagna zoodles.
    TIP: If you are dealing with baseball bat sized squash, you may want to cut in from the sides but avoid the super seedy middle (they tend to get watery and mushy). See picture for reference! If you have a mandolin slicer, you could use that instead of cutting with a knife, but please be careful, those things are sharp.
  3. Layer raw lasagna zoodles on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt on both sides to draw out some of the water. Set them aside while you prep your spaghetti sauce.

 

Make your sauce

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  1. If you're making homemade spaghetti sauce, do your thing!
  2. If you're cracking open a couple of jars, go for it!
  3. If you're looking for a semi-homemade quick and dirty version, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant. Add ground beef, breaking it up as it browns. Once beef is cooked through, add the tomato paste and continue to cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or so. Add in the jar of spaghetti sauce and whatever spices you like (I recommend hefty sprinkles of Italian seasoning, oregano, and basil, maybe some red pepper flakes). If it seems too thick, use the tomato paste can to add one can of water. Reduce to low and allow sauce to simmer while you grill the zucchini.

 

Grill the zucchini

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  1. Heat your grill over high heat and grease the grates with tongs holding a paper towel and olive oil. Add all zucchini to the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until it's pliable and has dried out a bit. Dump out any zucchini liquid that accumulated and place the cooked zucchini back on the cookie sheet to cool while you prep the cheese mixture.

 

Make the cheese mixture

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  1. In a medium bowl, combine 16oz ricotta cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella (reserve 1 cup for the top), 1 cup grated parmesan, and 1 egg. Mix with a fork or a spoon until it's smooth.
  2. Use a spoon to split the mixture in half right in the bowl - this is a helpful guide for how much to use in between the zucchini layers.

 

Build the lasagna

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  1. If you plan to bake the lasagna immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Now we have all of our components and we're ready to build the lasagna!
  3. Add a heaping 1 cup of the sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Spread it out to coat the bottom of the pan evenly.
  4. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of Panko breadcrumbs over the sauce (to soak up some of the zucchini moisture).
  5. Layer grilled zucchini slices over the sauce, fitting them together like a puzzle and overlapping a tiny bit if you have enough.
  6. Spread another heaping cup of sauce over the zucchini in a somewhat even layer.
  7. Grab a good handful of the cheese mixture and drop it in small blobs over the layer of sauce. Your hands are the best tools for this task! Use about half of the mixture.
  8. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of Panko breadcrumbs over the sauce.
  9. Repeat with layer two of the grilled zucchini.
  10. Spread another heaping cup of sauce over the zucchini in a somewhat even layer.
  11. Drop the remaining cheese mixture over the layer of sauce.
  12. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of Panko breadcrumbs over the sauce.
  13. Top with remaining grilled zucchini and cover with one final cup of sauce.
  14. Sprinkle remaining cup of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with dried oregano and a little extra parm if it strikes your fancy.

 

Bake it!

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  1. If you're baking the lasagna immediately, pop the pan in the oven and bake for an hour (or more). If you notice the cheese getting too browned, cover it with foil. Everything is already cooked in there, so really you just want it to marry into a melty, glorious mess. You'll know it's done when it's bubbly all over and the cheese is nice and melted and browned.
    TIP: If lots of liquid rises to the top while baking, you can sop it up with some bunched up paper towels or use a turkey baster to get some of it out of there. Put it in a mug so you can drink it like lasagna soup :)
  2. If you're baking the lasagna later (or tomorrow), pop it in the fridge. When you are ready to bake, let it sit out at room temp for a bit and also be prepared to tack on an extra 30 minutes or so (it will take longer if it's cold).
  3. Make sure you let the lasagna sit for 20-30 minutes before digging in! If you cut it right when it comes out of the oven, it will be a soupy mess.

PIN IT!

 Zucchini Lasagna – Maria Makes: A recipe I've been making for YEARS and I'm finally posting it to the blog! Cheesy, ooey and gooey like traditional lasagna, but made just a tiny bit lighter and fresher with grilled zucchini in place of lasagna noodles.

Zucchini Lasagna – Maria Makes: A recipe I've been making for YEARS and I'm finally posting it to the blog! Cheesy, ooey and gooey like traditional lasagna, but made just a tiny bit lighter and fresher with grilled zucchini in place of lasagna noodles.

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