Zucchini Lasagna may be the perfect late summer meal, but it also has a reputation for turning out watery and sad! We’re sharing a tasty, beefy zucchini lasagna recipe with you, along with all the tips and tricks we learned for reducing moisture and getting a casserole with a firm, hearty, and cheesy consistency.
A few years ago we came across zucchini lasagna and knew we had to try it. Lasagna is all about the cheese anyway. What could go wrong?
Well, our first undertaking turned out flavorful but soupy. Of course, zucchini lets out moisture rather than soaking it up like wheat noodles. But we were determined to make it work. And after a couple of experiments, work it did!
Our final lasagna is hearty and delicious, made with lean ground beef and a flavorful homemade sauce (that packs in even more veggies!) The whole pan is topped with bubbly toasted cheese that’ll entice your picky eaters to try a bite… or two, or three.
Tips for Zucchini Lasagna That isn’t Watery
Through some reading and experimentation, I discovered a few tips on making zucchini lasagna that isn’t too soupy. Here’s what to do:
- Slice your zucchini strips very thin. I’ve used knives, cheese cutters, and peelers and found success with all. Your noodles don’t have to look uniform so don’t stress if they come off imperfectly.
- “Sweat” your zucchini noodles for 30 minutes before using them. To do this, place some paper towels at the bottom of a colander and set your slices on top. Sprinkle liberally with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes. The salt helps pull moisture out of the zucchini. When your time is up, wipe your slices off really well with a clean towel to remove any excess moisture and too much salt.
- OR – If you don’t feel like using the sweat method, broil your strips in the oven for a few minutes, until slightly brown. This should dry them out nicely.
- Reduce liquid in sauces. Use a tomato sauce that is thick rather than runny. Try to spoon any excess liquid out of your cottage or ricotta cheese before mixing with the egg and parmesan.
- Once the lasagna has cooked for 20 minutes, turn the oven to broil and open the door so that it’s just cracked. Allow the zucchini to cook until bubbly and brown, maybe 2 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure it does not burn.
- Allow the lasagna to cool for 20-30 minutes once it’s out of the oven before cutting into it. This gives it time to set and let some of the liquid evaporate.
Using these techniques I have found success at making zucchini lasagna that holds together and has just the right amount of moisture. And the next day, it’s even better!
How to Make Meat Sauce for Zucchini Lasagna
I love this sauce because it is simple, tasty, high in protein, and even sneaks in a few extra veggies.
Start by browning your ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Try and break up the beef into really small pieces so that it spreads well in the casserole. When the beef is no longer pink, add in the onions, peppers, carrots, and garlic and continue to saute just a few minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent.
Next add canned tomato sauce, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce (I know it sounds strange, but I really like the depth of flavor that this condiment adds! If you’re out of Worcestershire sauce, don’t worry. You can omit it and still have a tasty sauce.)
Allow the sauce mixture to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked well and the sauce has thickened a bit.
And that’s it! Also, if you need a shortcut, you can use a pre-made sauce for this lasagna. Just be sure that it’s thick! Reducing moisture is key to zucchini lasagna with the right consistency.
The Perfect Make-Ahead Meal
Traditional lasagna can start to get dry after the first day. But zucchini lasagna can handle a second heating marvelously well. In fact, a day in the fridge helps all those Italian flavors blend for an even tastier lasagna!
To prep this meal ahead, you can go ahead and make it in its entirety. Then COOL it all the way, or nearly all the way, before you refrigerate.
Reheat up to two days later in a 375 degree oven, for 25-30 minutes.
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 pound beef, ground, 95% lean
- 1/2 medium onion
- 1/2 medium bell pepper, red
- 2 medium carrot
- 3 clove garlic
- 15 ounce tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
- 1 teaspoon basil, dried
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 2 cup cottage cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley, fresh
- Wash and cut zucchini into very thin strips. Line a colander with paper towels and place it in the sink. Place zucchini into the colander and salt generously. Allow zucchini strips to sweat for 30 minutes.
- Dice onion and red bell pepper (enough for 1/2 cup), grate carrots (enough for 1/2 cup), and mince garlic.
- Pre-heat oven to 350* F and grease a 9×13 inch pan.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef until cooked completely, making sure to chop into small pieces as you go. Remove beef onto a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
- Remove most of the remaining fat from the skillet, place back on the stove, and saute the onion, pepper, carrot, and garlic until the onion is translucent.
- Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, spices, and the cooked ground beef back into the skillet. Bring to a simmer, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix cottage cheese, egg, and parmesan in a small bowl.
- Once the zucchini have sweat for 30 minutes, wipe clean and dry with a clean cloth. Place one layer of zucchini strips on the bottom of the greased pan.
- On top of the zucchini, spread half of the tomato-beef sauce. Then spread a layer of half of the cottage cheese mixture. Then sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers once more: zucchini, sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella.
- Place in the oven for 20 minutes at 350* F, then turn the oven to broil and crack the oven door. Allow the top of the lasagna to bubble and brown, watching carefully. Should take 2 minutes or less.
- Remove from the oven and allow to set for 20-30 minutes before serving.