Ok, we've all heard about dishes that use turkey bacon over beef bacon, tofurky over turkey, with a disclaimer that reads "I swear you can't tell the difference!" Pishhhh. Right. I can always tell the difference, and the calories I save are not worth the difference in taste--or the lack there of, I should say. But when my neighbor gave me 2 HUGE zucchinis from her garden, I thought I would try to make zucchini lasagna. And here's a twist: I don't even really like zucchini! I also can't eat full-fat cheese, because of annoying stomach reasons I won't get into.... So what you end up with is a delicious, and I truly mean delicious, meal that 1) has waaay less calories than normal lasagna, and 2) you don't sacrifice the taste.....no, really! The "noodles" are a teensy bit crisper in texture than pasta, but it's really a 'no big deal.'
So the substitutions are pretty straight forward....instead of pasta noodles, I used the zuchinni sliced into very very thin slices (which I soaked 30 min in salt water, and blotted dry to remove some of their excess water), cottage cheese for ricotta, corn crumbs instead of bread crumbs and ground pork for ground beef (you could also use ground chicken or turkey).
1 Small Curb Cottage Cheese Container mixed with 1 Egg + 2 Yolks (which adds richness),
2 Tbsp. Room-Temperature Cream Cheese.
Spices for Cottage Cheese Mixture:
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp. Dried Onion Powder
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbsp. Dried Parsley
1/2 tsp. Dried Basil
Add in 3/4 C. Corn Crumbs. Mix Well.
Let mixture sit for 15 mins.
The moisture will absorb into the crumbs and the consistency will thicken.
Holy smoke, huh!?
Cut thin 1/4 in. strips from a zucchini.
I took out the seeds and middle part, as these huge zucchinis had a bit of a pumpkin-like texture towards the middle. I also cut off the dark green outside, so that the texture was as close to noodles as possible.
You could try using a mandolin, which I did....but these huge guys were too large for the it, so I ended up just using a sharp knife.
Soak the "noodles" in a luke-warm water bath with 1 tsp. of kosher salt added. Let sit for 30 min....while you work on the pork.
Sautee out 1 pound of lean, ground pork (or chicken, beef or turkey). Season with a pinch of S&P. No need to cook it to death, as it will finish cooking in the casserole. Set aside.
After the 30 mins are up, remove the "noodles" from the salt water, and blot them dry on paper towels. Slice off any dark green bit, if you haven't already.
Next, you'll need a large jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce.
I used Mid's meatless sauce that I doctor with a Tbsp. of Dried Oregano, Tbsp. of Dried Parsley and a dash of Cayenne Pepper.
In a deep, glass casserole dish begin to layer your parts, beginning with sauce on the bottom. I used a 6 x 9 x 3 in. dish. (If you don't have glass, a well greased bread pan would work.)
No precise order is correct....I did this (from bottom to top):
[ Sauce ]
Cottage Cheese Mixture
All of the Pork + Sauce
Cottage Cheese Mixture
(Optional) 1 Layer of Farmers Cheese (Or fresh mozzarella would work)
[ Sauce ]
It's important that you end on the sauce, because it's the lease likely of all the layers to burn.
Place the casserole pan on a foil covered cookie sheet. The lasagna will splatter so don't skip this important step!
Bake the lasagna for 15 mins at 375 and then 1 hour at 300 degrees.
(Can you see it bubbling??)
Finally, let the casserole sit for 20-25 minutes before serving. The wait will be worth it!
The finished lasagna may be a little watery from the zucchini. This is sort of the luck of the draw when dealing with a veggie "noodle," it's completely normal. I've had pasta lasagna do this too.
Top with your favorite parmesan cheese, and pair it with a good baguette and a glass of wine. Enjoy!