Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lasagna Sans Pasta

I told you it was BIG; the mother of all zucchini! Good thing its one of my most favorite vegetables. While several possibilities sprang to mind: zucchini bread, zucchini parmesan, Charmian Christie's delicious looking zucchini soup, I settled on turning this baby into lasagna ... a pasta-free lasagna and it was spectacular!

The recipe is fairly standard and there's hardly any need to measure. The important thing here is to use a sauce of good quality. I prefer to make my own and, honestly, the sauce I recommend is almost as easy as opening a jar. I used my adapted version of Marcella Hazan's basic tomato sauce. Its so simple you can make it while the zucchini drains and the flavor is remarkably delicious. I can't imagine why anyone would buy sauce when you can make something so incredible in so little time?!

Zucchini Lasagna:

  • one enormous zucchini (or several medium to large)
  • salt
  • two 15 oz. containers of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • some shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • additional grated Parmesan cheese
  • basic tomato sauce
Slice the zucchini into roughly 1/4 inch rounds. To draw out some of the water, layer the slices in a large colander, dusting each layer with a bit of ordinary table salt before adding the next layer. Allow the zucchini to drain for 30 to 45 minutes. Briefly rinse away the salt, without soaking the zucchini, and place the slices in a single layer between clean tea towels to dry, pressing lightly to remove as much water as possible. Allow the slices to sit between the towels for 15 minutes or so to continue draining.

Heat a large non-stick pan over high heat and brush it with a very thin layer of oil. Add as many slices as the pan will accommodate and gently brown the zucchini on both side. Do not cook it through, you want just a bit of golden color on each slice. Once lightly browned, remove from pan and reserve. Continue until all of the slices have been browned.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/4 of grated Parmesan cheese, the parsley, basil, granulated garlic, salt, nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne. Stir well to combine, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the beaten egg and stir well to combine. Reserve.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Place some tomato sauce the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or oven-safe baking dish, and add a layer of the sliced zucchini, over-lapping slightly to cover the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the slices, top with some shredded mozzarella and another layer of tomato sauce, then sprinkle with a bit of grated Parmesan. Repeat until all of the ricotta has been used and end with a layer of sliced zucchini. Top the final layer of slices with an even layer of tomato sauce, mozz and Parm. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until hot, bubbling and well-browned on top. Remove from oven and allow the lasagna to cool for at least 5 minutes and up to 10 before serving. Serve and enjoy with additional sauce and grated Parmesan, if desired.

As written, the recipe will serve approximately 8 to 10, depending on portion size.

Certainly, if you want to be fancy, you could slice the zucchini lengthwise to achieve flat strips more similar to lasagna noodles - but, frankly, this one was so big I simply couldn't manage it. And, really, it seems unnecessary. The finished product was every bit as tasty and I didn't have to risk injury to achieve it! Have I mentioned I'm dangerous in the kitchen?!

While there is a bit of work involved here, the dish is well worth the effort. The husband ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the dish and we both cleaned our plates. Unlike traditional lasagna, this is meal is not heavy at all - in fact, its remarkably light. The bonus here is that it truly is South Beach friendly; a lovely way to have your lasagna and eat it too. I loved it!

So, what's your favorite way to use up this ubiquitous end-of-summer veggie? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!


The Duo Dishes said...

That is the biggest zuke in life. Did you submit to Guiness Records??? Also: You've made all the carb freaked folks happy with this one. Very happy. We like carbs, though, and we could still get down with this!

Heavenly Housewife said...

LOL mutant zuchinnis are cool.

aoife mc said...

Cor blimey that's a big zucchini! This lasagne looks great, I've bookmarked it for the next time I run into a ginormous zucchini :0

stephchows said...

OOO I love adding a bonus zucchini layer in lasagna! I've never made it totally without the pasta though :)

Katherine Aucoin said...

That has to be the mother of all zucchinis...Donna from Tasty Treasures will literally be drooling when she sees this.

Your lasagna looks perfect and I checked out your tomato sauce recipe and now I have a few ideas. Thanks for sharing!

nora@ffr said...

hehe.. thats kwl!! love ye lasagna :D

Barbara Jacksier said...

I have a jumbo zucchini, too Coincidence?

Perhaps, we'll turn into the next Julie and Julia, I could check with you and decide what to make for dinner for 365 days.

I'd have to substitute on the chicken recipes, however, as chickens are my friends. I have 9 in a backyard coop (for eggs only).

pixelgal said...

Thank you Diva dear for inventing this giant zucchini masterpiece. Now the two in my fridge will have a tasty future. Just saw the movie about Julie and Julia and I have no doubts that you and some readers could do the same...and without using a famous person's name. Go for it!

Christie's Corner said...

Great use of zucchini. I've seen zucchini used as pasta when cut in ribbons, but this looks much easier. No potentially finger-mangling mandolin required.

Craving pasta now. But I'll have to wait to buy my own monster zuke at market on Saturday.

Mom said...

Wow, you weren't kidding about the size of your bro's zuccini!

(That sounds bad. Sorry. LOL)

The dish looks amazing. I wonder if it would be possible to make a zuccini parm? Or would the zuke fall apart??

The Diva on a Diet said...

Duo - I know, it was a monster alright. I should have measured it! LOL

HH - we seem to specialize in mutant zucchini ... they were all HUGE this year.

Aoife - Thanks! And let me know if you do run into a ginormous zuch.!

Steph - surprisingly, it works. I didn't even miss the pasta. :)

Katherine - OMG and LOL about Donna ... you're so right! That tomato sauce recipe is a winner. So easy and versatile. So yummy I could eat it all by itself.

nora - thanks!

Barbara - Love it! We'll make millions! :) Aren't you lucky to have a ready supply of fresh eggs?! That is so cool. Color me jealous.

pixelgal - I think you'd really like this dish. It was a bit of work, but so very tasty.

Charmian - I don't trust myself with a mandolin - not at all! Honestly, I don't think its necessary - cutting the rounds was easy and the results just as good.

Mom - "That sounds bad. Sorry. LOL" ... I know, right?! LOL

You could def. do zucchini Parmesan. I just didn't feel like going to the trouble of breading and frying. If you did, I'd make the slices a bit thicker so they wouldn't fall apart.

Anonymous said...

That is a huge zucchini for sure! I love your zucchini lasagna recipe, absolutely delicious!

Ann (Healthy Tasty Chow) said...

LOVE this! Having fun reading your blog:) Wish I found it earlier!