For the first time since I began gardening, I have managed to get enough ahead of the squash bugs to have a successful zucchini harvest. Now, compared to books I have read which mention drowning in zucchini and not being able to even give it away, I am by no means a smashing success, but we are being rewarded with 3-5 zucchinis every day or two for the past two weeks! In looking for creative ways to use it, I made lasagna at the beginning of the month using thin zucchini slices as our noodles. It tasted fabulous, but was quite watery. Thus began my quest for the perfect lasagne.
When two large zucchinis came in from the garden on Monday, I knew they were perfect for a second attempt. As I brainstormed on how to eliminate some of the moisture, it hit me, the dehydrator!! I used my mandoline slicer to cut the zucchinis into long, thin strips and then put them in the dehydrator for about 2 hours at 135℉. I have never dried zucchini, but I would guess they were about halfway to being dry when I took them out.
The dehydrated zucchini worked perfectly! Our lasagna set up just like it would have had we used traditional lasagna noodles. The dish had a wonderful sweetness created only by the mix of vegetables that were added. I don't think there has been a better received meal that I have made since we went grain free!
If you don't have a dehydrator, I would guess that drying the zucchini in a very low oven for a few hours would work the same. The first time I attempted the lasagna, I read recommendations on several websites of using salt to draw out the water in the zucchini. I didn't want my lasagna to taste super salty, so I skipped this step and dealt with the excess liquid. Dehydrating the zucchini first is an extra step, but one that is very much worth it in my book! Don't let the long list of ingredients or the extra steps keep you from trying it out, you wouldn't have to add everything, but I wanted to load it up with as many healthy veggies as I could. I also sautéed most everything first to help cut down on the liquid and to improve the flavor.
Grain Free Lasagna with Zucchini Noodles
- 2 medium to large zucchinis, sliced into long strips with a mandolin slicer
- 1 jar Bionaturae tomato paste
- 15 ounces Ricotta Cheese (beware, most have added starch)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
- 1.5 lbs ground beef
- 1 large red bell pepper, roasted or sautéed
- 1-2 large onion, sauteed
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, sautéed
- 2-3 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup fresh basil or 1/2 cup pesto
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp garlic powder*
- 2 tsp onion powder*
- 1 tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- Mandoline slice your zucchini. I did not use the thinnest setting, nor the thickest. Dehydrate as described above.
- Sauté onions, peppers and mushrooms. I roasted the peppers in a little coconut oil in the pan I was planning to cook the lasagna in. Set aside. I also kept all of the veggies separate so that I could make distinct layers. You could be a little less OCD than I was and mix them up!
- Using the pan already dirty from sautéing the veggies, brown the hamburger. Because I use pastured beef, I do not drain off any fat since there is very little to drain. Remove from heat and add tomato paste and seasonings.
- Mix ricotta, egg and Parmesan.
- Grease lasagna pan. I used a slightly smaller than 9x13 pan. Add layer of zucchini and then layer remaining ingredients in any order. Divide cheese and meat for a total of 4 layers.
- My order of layers was roughly, zucchini, spinach, 1/2 of onions, 1/2 of meat, zucchini, basil or pesto, mushrooms, 1/2 of cheese, peppers, meat, cheese and finally topped with mozzarella cheese.
*Anyone avoiding starches should be careful in consideration of these two additions. They are a source of starch, but seem to be tolerated in our household.
The little bit of juice in the picture is more from the meat than the zucchini. I should have waited until it cooled more to take a picture because the little bit of leftovers had no moisture at all when I dished them into a storage container.
May have been a little more effort than many of our weekday dinners, but a great meal for an adorable birthday boy seemed like a good idea. Since we all liked it so much and since the garden continues to reward us with zucchini, the efforts will be repeated and soon!