I’ve been thinking about zucchini noodles a lot lately. Both JT and I love them because they maintain a similar texture to traditional flour noodles, yet they are considerably lower in carbohydrates and that, my friends is something I am always on the lookout for! I’ve created this recipe lower in calories than traditional lasagna and it’s absolutely delicious if I do say so myself. I won’t kid you, it does take some planning and some playing in the kitchen but as far as I know, you guys are excellent at both so I urge you to give it a try. Double or triple the recipe and make a large casserole-size version, freeze for a few hours and cut into single serves and bag individually and presto, you have instant lunch or a quick casual dinner. I know I will try the vegetarian version over the summer because I am always on the lookout for interesting vegetarian recipes for our vegetarian friends when they come up to the cottage.
Zucchini Lasagna (Gluten Free and Easy to Convert to Vegetarian or Vegan!)
A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe
Makes 1 cast iron enamel terrine 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high, 6 servings.
Ingredients for noodles and cheese:
- 2 zucchini, sliced to about 3 mm (1/8″) (leave the ends, first and last slice and any leftovers for your compost broth)
- 2 roasted red peppers, seeded and peeled, cut into 1 cm (1/2″ slices) (see notes)
- 180 g (1 cup) mozzarella cheese (omit for vegan)
- 300 mL ‘Béchamel’ (recipe below)
- 500 mL (2 cups) Meat Sauce (recipe below, for vegan see notes below)
Ingredients for the ‘Béchamel’:
Makes 300 mL or 1 1/3 cups ‘béchamel’
- 90 g (a heaping 1/3 cup) red lentils
- 250 mL (1 cup) vegetable stock or water, plus a bit more to loosen the cooled sauce
- 50 g (1/2 cup or so) gruyère cheese, shredded (omit for vegan, see notes below)
- 250 mL (1 cup) milk, plus a little to loosen if required (vegan use vegetable stock or rice milk, see notes below)
- Pinch of smoked paprika
- Pinch of sea salt (to taste)
Directions for the Béchamel:
- Cook the lentils in water or stock until very soft. Remove from heat and purée until smooth. Add the liquid of choice slowly as you purée until it is extremely smooth and creamy. If you’re making this vegan, stir in the smoked paprika and salt, set aside.
- Return to low heat and stir in the cheese all at once and whisk until melted, smooth and thickened (about 2-5 minutes, don’t worry, this WILL thicken as it cools). Remove from heat and stir in the smoked paprika and salt. If the sauce has become grainy (as lentils sometimes do), just blitz it again with the immersion blender. Set aside.
Ingredients for the ‘Meat’ Sauce:
Makes 500 mL (2 cups) Sauce
- 5 mL (1 tsp) olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 15 g (about 3 cloves) garlic, finely minced
- 300 g of lean ground pork (vegans, use your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu)
- 300 g fresh tomatoes, puréed (or 1 1/2 cups passata)
- Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- pinch of baking soda
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp basil
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 piece of parmesan end (omit if vegan)
Directions for the Meat Sauce:
- Blitz the fresh tomatoes with an immersion blender until you can no longer feel the seeds and skin (no need to pass through a fine sieve, once incorporated into the lasagna you will not feel any tomato seed or skin texture).
- Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven and sauté the onions until soft. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant.
- Add the ground pork (beans or ground tofu) stirring occasionally, breaking up the larger bits of meat. Add the tomato sauce, baking soda, oregano, basil, nutmeg and Parmesan end and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened and not overly liquid.
- Remove the parmesan end (chef’s treat!) and transfer the ‘meat sauce’ to another bowl to cool.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177 ° C).
- Lightly grease a cast iron enamel terrine pan 30 cm long x 11 cm wide x 8 cm high (12 in long x 4 1/2 in wide x 3 in high).
- Lay strips of the thinly sliced zucchini on the bottom of the pan. Add 125 mL (~1/2 cup) of the meat sauce and spread out evenly. Lay strips of the red pepper on top of the meat. Spread 75 mL (~1/3 cup) of the ‘béchamel’ sauce evenly over the pepper layer (if ‘béchamel’ becomes too thick, loosen it by whisking in a little vegetable stock or ‘milk’). Sprinkle with 63 mL (1/4 cup) grated mozzarella cheese (omit if vegan), repeat until the pan is filled or you’ve used everything up. End with the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle the top with the remainder of the shredded mozzarella (omit if vegan).
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the zucchinis still have a bit of a bite to them (al dente). The internal temperature should be about 140° F. Broil the cheese version for about 10 minutes to caramelise the top.
- Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Cut into 6 portions and serve with a light salad.
Notes to make this a Vegan Lasagna:
- substitute vegetable stock or rice milk for the “milk” component.
- leave out the “cheese” component altogether, the lentils make a delightfully flavoured béchamel even without cheese (plus I am skeptical about vegan cheese, what is that?)
- Almond milk and coconut milk are too strongly flavoured, that is why I didn’t recommend it. On top of everything, I would avoid coconut milk because we are making this an Italian flavoured dish.
- Want to omit the ‘béchamel’? Add slices of Chinese eggplant, it will add the creaminess mouthfeel we crave with lasagna.
- Meat Sauce: substitute your favourite cooked beans or ground tofu in similar measures for the ground meat.
- Want to add even more flavour? BBQ the veg for a few minutes before you assemble, the smokiness adds a lot of flavour.
- I had pork from a previous meal that I ground up fresh for this recipe, use whatever meat or beans you wish.
- The lentil béchamel will thicken as it cools, just whisk in a bit more milk, rice milk or vegetable stock to loosen.
- I like the stringiness of mozzarella in lasagna but if you are lactose intolerant, feel free to substitute goats cheese, the tang will be incredible in this dish.
- Whenever I see beautiful red peppers, particularly if there is a sale, I buy a bunch, roast them on the BBQ and save the slices in the freezer for future pizza’s or in this case, lasagna (freeze on a parchment lined cookie sheet and when frozen, place in a plastic bag. Leave in whole pieces to give you more options in usage). Omitting the roasted red peppers is a mistake because they add incredible flavour and sweetness.