In this delicious zucchini lasagna, zucchini slices replace the noodles. This low carb, keto and gluten-free dish has all the wonderful flavors of lasagna, minus the extra carbs!
Using zucchini slices instead of wheat noodles in this tasty lasagna is genius! You lower the carbs AND enjoy the wonderfully fresh flavor of zucchini.
Admittedly, this is not one of my easiest recipes. It requires several steps and the list of ingredients is on the long side. But the final result is so good, so flavorful, that I think it's well worth it.
Does it taste like regular lasagna?
Not exactly. And the texture is different too. But it's an excellent low carb substitute. Zucchini slices don't work as well as starchy noodles in terms of keeping the lasagna's shape, so this dish is flimsier than the traditional noodle-based one, and it's also more watery (even after grilling the zucchini).
But in terms of flavor, it's another major victory to keto and low carb cooking, and another proof that the starches in many recipes merely absorb other flavors.
This dish tastes amazing. So good in fact that I don't plan on making it too often, since I found myself having THREE, yes three big slices instead of the one I was planning to have. Yes, it is that good!
By the way, this spinach lasagna better resembles the real thing in terms of texture, it's not watery, and it's also easier to make. But in terms of flavor, I still like the zucchini lasagna better.
The ingredients you'll need
These are the ingredients you'll need to make this tasty keto lasagna. The exact amounts are listed in the recipe card below.
For the zucchini layer: Fresh zucchinis (such a wonderful vegetable!), olive oil spray, kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
Beef layer: Ground beef, garlic, olive oil, and marinara sauce.
Ricotta layer: Ricotta cheese, eggs, and fresh basil.
Mozzarella layer: Shredded mozzarella cheese.
How to make zucchini lasagna
The detailed instructions are listed in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:
Grill the zucchini. You start by slicing the zucchinis lengthwise, seasoning and grilling them.
Cook the beef with garlic, spices and marinara sauce.
Mix the ricotta cheese with eggs and basil.
Assemble the dish by layering the grilled zucchini slices, the beef, the ricotta, and shredded mozzarella.
Bake until hot and bubbly.
Why grill the zucchini slices?
Zucchini is very watery, so do go through the extra step of grilling the slices before assembling the dish. Grilling will help dry them off and remove some of the water. Otherwise, they will release their water into the lasagna as it bakes.
Grilling works best to remove the water. But as an alternative to grilling, you can bake the zucchini slices in a 500F oven until golden, about 5 minutes on each side:
Or, if using a broiler-safe baking sheet and unbleached parchment paper marked as broiler-safe, you can broil them 6 inches from the heating element (not directly below), 3-4 minutes per side. Remember to set the oven to 350F when you're done.
But please keep in mind that grilling is by far the best way to remove water content and prevent a watery lasagna.
You can grill the zucchini slices the day before making this recipe. Layer them in an airtight container separated by paper towels. Discard the wet paper towels after a few hours and replace them with dry ones.
You can also cook the ground beef ahead of time. Once cooked, I divide the mixture into three airtight containers and refrigerate them until the next day. Briefly reheat the mixture in the microwave prior to using it in the lasagna.
What sauce to use in zucchini lasagna?
Needless to say, the flavor of your lasagna will greatly depend on the marinara sauce you use. I always use sugar-free pasta sauce, and my favorite is Rao's. Their spicy Arrabbiata sauce is wonderful.
Rao's used to only be available at Whole Foods, but lately I've been seeing it in my supermarket too. Of course, just like everything else on earth, it's also available on Amazon.
How to serve it?
This lasagna is a complete meal. So you don't really need a side dish to go with it. But I sometimes add a green vegetable, such as steamed broccoli.
What about leftovers?
Leftovers keep well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them in the microwave, covered, on 50% power. You can also freeze the leftovers.
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For the zucchini layer:
- 5 medium zucchinis (2 lb. total weight)
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 ½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper divided
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
For the beef layer:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb. lean ground beef (85/15)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 ⅓ cup marinara sauce divided
For the ricotta layer:
- 15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil packed (1 oz)
- 8 oz shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese divided
Grill the zucchini slices:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and heat your grill to medium. Slice the zucchinis lengthwise, into ¼-inch-thick strips, getting 6 slices out of each zucchini and discarding the ends.
- Spray the zucchini slices with olive oil and sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, and ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
- Grill the zucchini slices, in batches, 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden and firm - not browned and crisp. Spread them on clean kitchen towels to soak up more moisture.
Cook the beef:
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add the meat, the minced garlic, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the meat is no longer raw, about 5 minutes. Drain into a colander, then return the meat to the pot and mix in 1 cup of the marinara sauce. Turn the heat off and set aside.
Prepare the ricotta layer:
- In a medium bowl, with a fork, mix together the ricotta, eggs, basil, and the remaining kosher salt and black pepper.
Assemble the lasagna:
- Spread the remaining ⅓ cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish. You can also use a slightly smaller baking dish such as a dish that measures 11 X 7 inches.
- Top the marinara sauce with a layer of zucchini, then a third of the ricotta mixture, a third of the meat mixture, and a third of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat, arranging the zucchini slices in the opposite direction: zucchini, ⅓ ricotta, ⅓ meat mixture, ⅓ mozzarella.
- Repeat one last time, adding one extra layer of zucchini: zucchini, ricotta, meat mixture, more zucchini, and mozzarella.
Bake the lasagna:
- Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is golden, about 30 minutes. You can finish by broiling for 1-2 minutes on high to brown the cheese, if you wish and if your dish is broiler-safe. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.