Sunday, 31 March 2013

Zucchini Lasagna

Happy Easter! The only interesting things I've done this weekend (other than a deliciously huge breakfast with family today) is bake, play Bioshock Infinite, and get a new phone. Yea, no school work for me this weekend... Not because I'm done it all. Just because, well. Because.

If you're doing low-carb but always loved pasta, or you're like me and you can't get over that taste explosion of a casserole, you might want to check out some recipe using alternative "noodles". Many veggies can be used in place of noodles. However some people worry about over-powering tastes and textures. And these people are right, some veggies just aren't for everyone! I make many "pasta" dishes (such as spaghetti, lasagna, and "hamburger helper" type dishes) using several different veggies in place of noodles. In the upcoming weeks I will post a few more. Here are some examples to get us started:

This pale and cheesy casserole features my favourite "noodle". Can you tell what it is just by looking at it?
Of course, another casserole. We love them in our house. There's only two of us so they  end up being meals for days! Lunch to go, and left over dinner. Mmm. 
Who doesn't love a savoury kitchen sink casserole?
As mentioned, casseroles are a great lasting meal. Fresh veggies aren't even necessary, especially for the kitchen sink casserole (I mean if you have some left over steamed broccoli, toss that in your casserole! Yum!). If you are on your own a 9x13 casserole can provide lunch and dinner for a week. If it happens to be 2 or 3 people, maybe dinner for a week. Since there is two of us, I like to freeze at least two-three servings (for those days when I really don't want to cook), and portion the rest into lunch containers.

The lasagna we're going to make today is another recipe that I have used tons of times but just never bothered to post. Well now I'll do that. In order to have a "pasta" meal, we need some kind of "noodle". So for this dish we use zucchini. I know this is not uncommonly done, but unless you are experienced with making alternative "pasta" dishes, you might think "ugh why zucchini?". Well it's nutritious for one (check out this link, or do a google search for more information on the health benefits of zucchini). It also has a very mild flavour, especially when paired with other flavourful things - the zucchini will not over-power the other things in your meal. You will notice, however, that zucchini doesn't have that chewy pasta texture. Which is great. More cheese, meat, and saucy flavours/textures!

Let's take a look at today's dinner...

Very cheesy, very filling, low-carb dinner

Servings: 12
Nutritional Information: 417 cals, 9g carbs & 2g fiber (7g net carbs), 26g fat, 34g protein

Prep Time: 20-40 minutes (~20 minutes just for zucchini)
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Your Ingredients:

The "Pasta"
  • 4 medium zucchinis 
  • salt
The Cheese Layers
  • 2 cups of cottage cheese (I used small curd 4%m.f.)
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 120g mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
  • choice seasoning
The Meaty Layers
  • 2lbs of ground beef* (I use medium)
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup choice pasta sauce (Original Ragu is what I generally use but other tomato sauces work)
  • choice spices (I use chilli powder, minced garlic, and some salt)
Your Tools:
  • Cutting board, and knife or mandoline slicer (e.g., this is the one I have)
  • Some paper towels
  • One medium-large mixing bowl
  • A pot big enough for 2lbs of ground beef & sauce
  • A 3 quart casserole dish (9x13 inches)
  • A wooden spoon or spatula, and a whisk
*If you don't want a lot of meat you can opt to use 1lb and still make a lasagna with the same dimensions. I've done this and it is still pretty filling. Nutritional values and instructions will be for 2lbs. 

The Directions:

Step 1 -
The first thing we need to do is deal with making a fauxpasta for our noodles. Cut the ends off all 4 zucchini. Slice (about 1/8th of an inch) each longways to make noodles. As listed under "Your Tools", a mandoline makes slicing much easier and the noodles more uniform. When finished, wipe each slice (both sides) with a paper towel to remove excess water.
Zucchini is a very watery squash. The water will present itself while cooking the zucchini. Unfortunately, our lasagna will be very runny... Unless we can get some of that moisture out! Let's do that. Put a sheet or two of paper towel on a flat surface (like your counter or another cutting board), sprinkle salt on it, then lay some slices of zucchini over the salted paper towel. Lightly salt the topside of the slices, and cover with another sheet or two of paper towel. Repeat this process until all your zucchini is salted. Put something heavy-ish (I have a pretty solid cutting board I use) on the pile.  

Step 2-5 -
While the zucchini sweats we can get started on the rest of the meal. You'll want to do these next few things at roughly the same time, so everything is ready when actually building the lasagna. First preheat your oven to 350F.
Put your ground beef in a medium sauce pan with about 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of water. Cook on medium heat.
Shred mozzarella cheese
While the beef cooks, whisk eggs in the mixing bowl. Add the cottage cheese and any seasoning you prefer. Add the parmesan cheese. Whisk together until blended and set aside. 
When the ground beef has browned, drain in a colander to remove fat and water. Put the drained beef back in the pot. Add seasoning and stir. Tomato paste and pasta sauce and stir. Heat on low-medium for a 2-4 minutes and then remove from heat.
Step 6 & however many layers... -
After 10-20 minutes remove paper towels and wipe excess water off the zucchini strips.
Line the bottom of your 3 quart casserole dish with some of the egg & cottage cheese mixture. We want 2-4 layers of cheese and meat so don't put it all in right away. Add some meatsauce, then some zucchini noodles. Make sure new sweat beads didn't form on your noodles before putting them in the casserole dish. Repeat this process until you run out of cheese and meat, or noodles. Top it all with the shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake lasagna for 40 minutes. Broil for an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
The Finished Product

As you can see, even after extracting some moisture, water still seeps out! There are other more involved methods (such as grilling or baking the slices before using them as noodles) you can try if you find your lasagna to be TOO watery. I find that the lasagna itself doesn't have a watery taste or texture and so I'm willing to deal with this result.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking the time to post this, Jen!