Zucchini lasagna is a gluten-free dinner that’s lower in carbs and packed with flavors and textures. The zucchini “noodles” work so well here that you’ll never even realize it’s missing the pasta! This easy recipe also freezes well for a perfect make-ahead meal.
There are so many reasons to love zucchini lasagna! While I love a classic lasagna, it’s very heavy. It’s easy to eat too much and be left feeling weighed down.
This is why I’ve become a huge fan of swapping out the noodles, as I’ve done here and also with my eggplant lasagna. These recipes are so much lighter, yet still hearty and satisfying.
It can be prepared and layered in advance and then baked off right before serving. This makes it an excellent choice for layering on a Sunday so that dinner is ready to toss in the oven after work. This lasagna recipe also freezes well in individual portions.
For this recipe, you’ll need the following:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Ground beef (see notes for a vegetarian lasagna)
- Yellow onion
- Marinara sauce
- Ricotta cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
How to Make Zucchini Lasagna
1. Remove water from zucchini.
- You want to remove as much water from the lasagna as possible before baking. Salt is the key to this step, since it helps release the water.
- Spread the zucchini slices on colanders and/or cooling racks, then sprinkle very lightly with salt. Let the zucchini sit for around 30 minutes while the water magically pools on top, then dab it away with paper towels.
- Next, you want to roast the zucchini for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees F, then transfer the slices to a plate lined with paper towels. Blot away as much liquid as possible.
2. Prepare the meat sauce.
- Cooking the ground beef before baking the lasagna will remove unwanted fat. That fat will solidify once it cools to room temperature, so don’t drain it directly into your sink. I drain fat into a bowl and let it firm back up, then I scoop it into the trash.
- You can cook the onions and garlic in the same pot as the ground beef (I like to use an enameled cast iron Dutch oven). Once they’re cooked, add the beef and marinara sauce back to the pot. Voila! Quick meat sauce.
3. Prepare the cheese layer.
- All you do is combine half the cheese with eggs, oregano, salt and pepper.
4. Layer the lasagna.
- Now you’ve got your zucchini noodles, meat sauce, and cheese filling. If you’ve ever layered a standard lasagna, this process is exactly the same.
5. Bake and serve.
It’s so good, and it’s also so much less heavy. You’ll wonder why you ever used regular lasagna noodles.
How to Avoid Watery Lasagna
Zucchini contains a lot of water, and if you simply add zucchini slices to the lasagna, you’ll wind up with a plate full of water. Salting the zucchini first is the secret to avoiding watery lasagna, because salt helps extract water from food (this process is called osmosis).
Thinner slices of zucchini are better, because you’re less likely to have water left behind in the slices. You can slice the zucchini by hand, but I prefer using a mandoline. It gives me perfectly even, thin slices in no time.
If you’re nervous using a mandoline (I get it), you can purchase a hand-protecting glove.
When salting the zucchini, you need very little salt to extract the water, around 1/2 teaspoon per pound. It’s tempting to add more, but too much salt will leave you with salty lasagna. I speak from experience.
Zucchini lasagna can be assembled the day beforehand, then covered and refrigerated until ready to bake. You may need to increase the bake time slightly, since the ingredients will be chilled.
This zucchini lasagna will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days.
If you want to freeze leftovers, I recommend slicing individual portions within 3 days and storing them in single serving freezer containers. You can also wrap the slices in plastic wrap and place them in a large freezer bag.
How to Chop an Onion
This recipe calls for chopped onions. Check out my fast and easy technique for how to chop an onion with step-by-step photos!
Can I Make This Into a Vegetarian Lasagna?
If you’d prefer a vegetarian lasagna, omit the meat entirely and instead add your favorite vegetables or a meat substitute. Some suggestions:
- I’m a fan of Field Roast Italian Sausages. While I haven’t tried it, I’m also hearing great things about Beyond Beef products.
- For a vegetable lasagna, replace the meat with 2 cups of your favorite sautéd veggies. The more you caramelize them, the more “meaty” the flavor will be (caramelization adds what’s known as umami). If you’re using a watery vegetable like mushrooms, make sure to cook out the liquid first.
More Dinner Recipes
- 4-5 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
- 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (see notes)
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 tablespoons oregano leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Spread the zucchini slices in a single layer over colanders and/or wire cooling racks. Sprinkle lightly with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon per pound), and let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and gently pat dry, trying to remove as much excess water as possible. (see notes)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment and spray lightly with cooking spray.
- Place the zucchini in a single layer. Roast for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the oven and transfer to paper towel-lined plates or cutting boards to drain away any excess moisture while preparing the other ingredients. Also blot the tops dry as needed.
- In Dutch oven or heavy-bottom saucepan set over medium-low heat, brown the ground beef for 5-7 minutes. Drain the fat through a colander (don't pour the fat down the drain; discard it).
- In the same pan, heat the olive oil. Cook the onions until soft and lightly browned around the edges, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, then cook for another 1-2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan along with the marinara sauce, and stir to combine the ingredients. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, eggs, 3/4 cup parmesan, 1 cup mozzarella, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish (or similar size) using olive oil or cooking spray. Spread 2 cups of meat sauce on the bottom. Top with approximately 10 slices of zucchini. Top with half the cheese filling, spreading evenly. Top with 1 cup sauce, a layer of zucchini, the remaining cheese, a layer of zucchini, and the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan and mozzarella evenly over the top. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the edges are darkening up, approximately 50 minutes. Allow to set for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.
- This zucchini lasagna will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days. If you plan to keep leftovers, I recommend slicing portions within 3 days, and storing in individual freezer containers or individually wrapped in a large freezer bag.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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