I am not one for gimmicky food - you know trendy food that is trying to be different just for the sake of being different. Like for example carrot hotdogs, if I want a hot dog, I will eat a hot dog. Maybe that is a bad example because vegetarians want hot dogs sometimes ( I would imagine) but you know what I mean. Or here is a better example - a ramen burger. A ramen burger is a hamburger that uses ramen noodles instead of a bun. Consider me old and uncool but that is not my jam at all. Give me an amazing hamburger or an amazing bowl of ramen - just don't give me a hybrid to both of them.
However I am all for trying something out of the ordinary when it makes the recipes even better. Enter my zucchini lasagna where I swapped out regular pasta noodles for thinly sliced zucchini. I wouldn't say this is health food (if it is, sign me up) but I like this recipe because you are adding vegetables into it without even noticing that your are replacing the noodles. I like using the zucchini because it adds some crunchy texture to the lasagna. It also like that it lightens it up a bit - not too much because there is still cheese and sausage in there, but enough where I don't feel too guilty going back for seconds.
Couple notes about the recipe. First the key to using zucchini in your lasagna is to dehydrate before using them. This is really easy to do, but basically you cook them for about 30 minutes until dry. This will help to prevent your lasagna from being too soggy. Also slicing them on a mandolin is the easiest and fastest way to get zucchini planks. (My favorite mandolin is a Benriner ).
Also I used chicken sausage in this recipe. I found it at Whole Foods but you can use regular sausage if you like. I like using sausage in my lasagna because the sausage itself has tons of flavoring and seasoning. Also make sure you get raw sausage not an already cooked sausage (you can usually find this at the butcher counter).
If you are a no-go on the zucchini, just swap out the zucchini for a box of no-boil lasagna noodles and cover the the lasagna while it is cooking up until the last five minutes then remove the foil and let the top get all sorts of golden brown.
Lastly, I didn't want to dirty another pot so I baked the lasagna right in the cast iron skillet that I made the sauce in. However you could use a 9" casserole dish instead.
- 2 Lbs. zucchini, thinly sliced on a mandolin
- 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
- 1 - 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
- 4 cups (about 16 oz. )grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 1/4 cups (about 4 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 lb sausage (I used chicken sausage)
- 2 tsp. oregano
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Place racks on a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
Lay the zucchini on the baking sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Gently blot the water that the salt pulls out of the zucchini.
Dehydrate the zucchini for about 30 minutes or until dry and the edges have started become golden brown. (The cook time will depend on how thinly you slice your zucchini. I sliced mine about 1/8" thick and it took 30 minutes but I advise checking on it 15 minutes in the bake time just to be sure you are not overcooking them. Also if you don't have a baking rack, flip the zucchini planks over after 15 minutes) Set aside.
In a food processor pulse to combine the basil, the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1 egg. Pulse until smooth. Set aside.
In a 10" or 12" cast iron skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 minutes. Add the sausage and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes breaking up any large pieces as they cook. Add the oregano, red pepper flakes and tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and is thick.
Remove all but 1/4 of the sauce from the pan. Arrange a quarter of the zucchini slices on top of the sauce followed by 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese and 1/4. cup Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times with sauce, zucchini slices, mozzarella and Parmesan. Top the lasagna with the remaining zucchini slices and spoon the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
Bake lasagne for about 35 - 40 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling. Let lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Make 6 to 8 servings.