Oh, the cheese—that golden brown, melted goodness laminating the saucy, meaty, vegetable pan of comfort and joy. Vegetable? Wait, no pasta? Nope. Not a pasta dish, it’s Zucchini Lasagna, the meat lover’s version.
So you’ve spent the last hour (or more) making a pan of lasagna, and now you realize you should probably toss a salad. Not a big deal because you have a few minutes while it bakes, but what if the vegetables were already in there and it truly was a one-dish meal? Like any lasagna, once the prep is done, the layering comes together pretty fast. But then, there’s that prep, which is why I like that it’s a complete meal by the time it’s all layered and baked. This time, save the salad and the effort.
Using zucchini for the noodles means you can enjoy the flavors you love while breaking away from the carb overload of the holiday season. (We indulged on cookies, cakes, danish, and bread too, so it’s time to get back to better habits.) No, we are not on a low-carb diet. We don’t diet at all—dieting sabotages metabolism in the long-run due to the yo-yo effect of the on again, off again. As I explain on my Food Philosophy page, healthy eating is a lifestyle of (daily) good food choices, not food fads. However, we always try to incorporate more vegetables in our meals deliciously, and this recipe hits the mark.
Do I still eat lasagna with pasta noodles? Yes, but rarely because we limit refined flour.
Do I love lasagna and miss it? Absolutely! So it was time to figure out how to have it more often and feel good about it.
Why meat lover’s? Because vegetable noodles are crazy enough, right?! According to Matt, no less than two pounds of meat would be acceptable. Okay. (Although, for the less carnivorous, it would be fabulous without the meat too.)
No need for a fancy vegetable slicer or mandolin; zucchini is remarkably easy to slice when you stand it up as you would to slice kernels from an ear of corn. Having a high water content it is important to draw out some of the moisture, but that is easy to do while prepping the other ingredients. Once it goes into the oven, you’ll have time to light a few candles and pour some wine, unless you find it impossible to relax before dinner is done, and the last dish is washed. Though I highly recommend the candles and wine—savoring your time as much as the meal itself.
- 1 small garlic bulb -- roasted
- olive oil
- 2 pounds zucchini -- 5-6, 1½" x 8"
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage -- browned and crumbled
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage -- browned and crumbled
- 16 ounces mushrooms -- sliced
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 5 cups mozzarella cheese -- shredded (about 1 lb)
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese -- grated
- 1 whole egg -- lightly beaten
- ¼ cup parsley -- chopped
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- ⅓ cup fresh basil -- chopped
- 32 ounces spaghetti sauce (any favorite, thicker is better)
- Roast garlic by cutting the top of the bulb off, exposing the tops of the garlic cloves (reserve trimmed garlic tips -- about 1 teaspoon, minced); place bulb in a small oven safe dish, drizzle enough oil over garlic bulb to coat the top and surface; roast in oven at 375° for 30-40 minutes until garlic is fragrant, lightly browned, and soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool until easy to handle. To remove the roasted garlic from the bulb, squeeze the bulb at the bottom releasing the cloves out the cut end -- cloves should pop right out. Coarsely chop and mix with the mushrooms, once cooked. Reserve any remaining oil from the roasted garlic to grease the baking pan.
- Trim ends from squash, then slice a sliver off one side to create a flat side. Stand squash up on a cutting surface like an ear of corn and carefully slice the squash lengthwise along the flat side into ⅛" slices, running a knife just inside the original trimmed edge to create flat, wide "noodles".
- Lay out squash on a paper towel lined pan, sprinkle with salt, and let set 30 minutes to sweat. Once garlic is roasted, increase oven temperature to 400°F. Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Once browned, mix the two types of sausage together and set aside. Using the fat from the sausage (add oil if needed), cook the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat until the mushrooms are wilted and release their moisture. Transfer mushrooms to a paper towel lined bowl and toss with roasted garlic. Set aside until ready to use.
- Rinse zucchini and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange zucchini on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
- Mix the ricotta cheese, egg, parsley, and nutmeg until well blended. Stir in ¾ cup of the Parmesan and 2 cups of the mozzarella.
- Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and layer with ⅔ cup sauce, zucchini, half the sausage, half the mushroom and roasted garlic, ½ the basil, 1 cup mozzarella, and all the ricotta mixture.
- Continue to layer with ⅔ cup sauce, remaining zucchini, sausage, mushrooms and roasted garlic. Top with 1½ cup sauce, 2 cups mozzarella, and remaining basil.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Special Note: Zucchini “noodles” are naturally gluten-free, but be sure the sausage and sauce is gluten-free as well when sharing with celiac friends.