Monday, August 5, 2013

Recipe Makeover: Lasagna

When I was growing up, we'd eat lasagna all the time.  We don't have any Italian in our blood, which is probably why mom's lasagna always featured cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and canned spaghetti sauce instead of homemade tomato sauce.  But it was delicious nonetheless, and I continued to make it often when I moved out on my own.

The thing with lasagna is that it's usually made with lots of pasta.  Lasagna noodles, anyone?  And the way I made it when I was out on my own was always meatless, either just with cheese or with meatless soy crumbles.  Yum.

However, in the peak of summer, I remember my mom always making zucchini lasagna, using sliced zucchini instead of pasta.  It was fantastic, and I knew it would be the best way to convert a high carb meal into something low carb and nutritious.

The best thing about zucchini is that it's so easy to grow.  I've only gotten one out of my garden so far, but we have a local farmer that's grown so much this year that she's been selling it for 3 for a $1!

The one on the right is a Cocozelle zucchini from my garden.
I've found the easiest way to get zucchini noodles is by using a mandolin slicer.  It doesn't even have to be an ultra fancy, super dangerously sharp one, either, because zucchini is so soft.  I got mine at Aldi for $4, and it works like a charm on zucchini. 

If you don't have a mandolin, and don't have the confidence to slice the zucchinis lengthwise, it will taste just the same if you slice them into coins.

My mom always would dip her zucchini in eggs and flour and fry them before using them as noodles, but it saves a lot of time, trouble, and carbs by just using plain raw zucchini.  She would also use fried eggplant once in a while, but I've never been a huge fan of eggplant and can't really justify ruining a whole lasagna by using them.  (And yet I tried to grow eggplants last year; I guess I thought I'd like them more if they came from my garden.  I didn't, by the way.)

And the best thing about zucchini lasagna is that it makes enough to last for several days, and it's a whole meal in one.  Meat, cheese, good fats, vegetables.

Chad would eat two pieces for a meal, whereas one piece was just right for me.  For some of you, a whole piece might be too big, so of course you can cut it into as many pieces as you want.

Zucchini Lasagna

1 pound ground beef
12 oz package pork sausage OR 1 extra pound ground beef or pork (in case you don't do pork/processed meat)
8 oz shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese
2 cups marinara sauce, divided
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley OR 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
3 medium zucchinis, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In skillet, brown beef and sausage together. Once completely browned, drain most of the fat and add 1-1/2 cups marinara sauce.  Mix well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, and seasonings.  Set aside.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  Next, layer on the ingredients in this order:

zucchini noodles
1/3 of the meat sauce
1/2 of the ricotta mix
1/3 of the mozzerella

zucchini noodles
1/3 of the meat sauce
1/2 of the ricotta mix
1/3 of the mozzerella

zucchini noodles
remaining meat sauce
remaining mozzerella

Place into oven uncovered and bake for 30 minutes.  Check to make sure cheese isn't burning.  If it looks like it's starting to brown at this point, add a piece of greased foil to the top.  Bake for 30 more minutes, or until quite bubbly and cheese is nicely browned.  Remove the cover if you added one.

This next step is important: let sit for 20 minutes.  You can eat it immediately, however it's going to be soup if you try it.  Letting it rest gives it time to get rid of most of the moisture from the zucchini, and plus it's extremely hot straight out of the oven!

The first piece is always messy, no matter what you do.

If you're more of a cheese fan, go ahead and top the lasagna with another 4 oz (1 cup shredded) mozzarella.  I thought it was delicious with just 8 oz total though.

Nutrition facts:

For 1/8 piece:
Calories: 541
Fat: 40
Protein: 36
Carbs: 9
Fiber: 1

For 1/10 piece:
Calories: 433
Carbs: 7
Fiber: < 1


  1. Gotta love that humble zucchini!! So versatile when you cut out wheat :)

    I also use sliced sweet potato in the layers - looks like pasta and doesn't break up when cooked. (I precook it before I layer it).