Zucchini Lasagna

I just love a prideful Italian...it doesn't matter if you're first gen or if your father's mother's second cousin lived in Italy for one summer "back in the day" - any connection to Italy means that you've, at some point or another, bragged to someone (who, let's be clear, probably wasn't impressed) that your bloodstream is largely comprised of tomato sauce and pecorino. I'll unapologetically lump myself into the crowd who loves claiming the Italian heritage. I love everything about it. I love listening to my dad speak the language - which essentially sounds like poetry - over the phone to his mom; I love that I picked up that mildly irritating trait of talking with my hands; I love that the Italian culture encouraged my parents to teach me about wine starting at a relatively young age; I loved that prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe or ricotta and honey were normal snacks as a child; I even loved that my loud grandmother would literally spoon feed my friends meatballs until they were uncomfortably full at the ripe age of 16.

Noodles, marinara, garlic, olives, cured meats and cheese (let's whoop it up for the da real MVP, parmigiano reggiano). If you're any shade of Italian, it's likely that you identify with things all the way down to the deepest, darkest corners of your soul. With that, it's not inconceivable to assume that many Italians might scoff at any healthified variation of a classic, beloved, native dish (such as lasagna). For example: a couple years ago I made my grandmother a bowl of spaghetti squash bolognese. She initially looked at the plate with an endearing expression of confusion (I imagine her inner dialogue to have been something like "whatta kind of pasta is theesa?")...which then quickly morphed into an expression of genuine anguish...I honestly wouldn't have been surprised if my sweet little pocket-sized granny spat in my face for putting a pile of vegetables underneath bolognese. My point is, for the sake of your health and 2017's gluten-free obsession, I am running a risk here. If some nut job shows up at my house tonight and kills me for subbing out gluten-y lasagna sheets for - gasp - zucchini, just know that I went out FOR YOU!

...I feel like I should also note that this is still f***ing delicious without the noodles. Carry on.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 (15 oz) cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you don't like too much heat)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella

Method

  1. Cook up your ground beef in a large skillet, breaking it up as it cooks. Once cooked through, drain it of its juices in a colander and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, add the olive oil and diced onions. Cook on medium/high heat for about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.
  3. Add the beef back into the skillet and dump in both cans of tomato sauce, followed by the basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil and then reduce the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 while the sauce cooks, and prepare the zucchini ribbons.
  5. For the zucchini, you'll want to use a mandolin. Slice all three zucchini length-wise into very thin ribbons (about 1/8th of an inch...I just used the thinnest setting on my mandolin). You can also use a hand-held vegetable peeler, it will just take a little more time.
  6. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan and egg. Taste and add salt as needed.
  7. Once the 25 minutes is up on the meat sauce, start layering! In a casserole dish, spread about 1/2 cup of meat sauce across the bottom, then layer enough zucchini ribbons over top to cover. Take a big dollop of the ricotta mixture and spread it over the zucchini. Take a handful of the shredded mozzarella (about 1/3 - 1/2 cup worth) and sprinkle it over the ricotta. Repeat - starting with the meat sauce, followed by the zucchini ribbons, followed by the ricotta mixture, finished with the mozzarella - until you've used up all of the ingredients!
  8. Place your beautiful casserole dish in the oven, covered (either with tin foil or a lid), for 30 minutes. Remove the tin foil or lid and bake for another 20 minutes.
  9. SERVE!

Servings: 4-6