Did you know that you can make lasagna by replacing the noodles with zucchini slices? The tasty result has all the wonderful flavors we love about the Italian dish - it's even very similar in its texture!
Leftovers keep well for several days and you can quickly reheat them in the microwave or even enjoy them cold.
Years ago, I used to make amazing lasagna. After transitioning to a low-carb diet, I was sad to let it go, until I realized that I actually don't have to!
Using zucchini slices instead of 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.
Here's a list of the ingredients you'll need to make this tasty lasagna. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below.
For the zucchini layer: Fresh zucchinis, olive oil spray, kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. You can add a bit of onion powder too if you wish.
Beef layer: Ground beef, garlic, olive oil, and marinara sauce. Try to use a sugar-free marinara sauce such as Rao's.
Ricotta layer: Ricotta cheese, eggs, and fresh basil. It's important to use fresh basil here - dried won't be as good.
Mozzarella layer: Shredded mozzarella cheese. You can also use shredded provolone, or use one of those shredded cheese bags labeled as "Italian cheese mix."
The detailed instructions for making this zucchini lasagna are listed in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:
Grill the zucchini. You start by slicing the zucchinis lengthwise, seasoning the slices, 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, beef, ricotta, and shredded mozzarella.
Bake until hot and bubbly.
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 for 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.
Frequently asked questions
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 keto 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 like the zucchini version better.
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.
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 brand 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.
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- You can make this lasagna with ground lamb, ground chicken, or ground turkey. It will not taste the same as beef, of course, but all of these options make interesting variations.
- You can use well-softened cream cheese instead of ricotta. The results will be richer and heavier, but very tasty.
- Provolone is a good substitute for mozzarella. You can also sprinkle the finsihed dish with a tablespoon or two of dry-grated parmesan for some added flavor.
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. It's also good with this keto garlic bread and with arugula salad.
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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Amazing No-Noodle Zucchini Lasagna
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.