Day 1 went great, as most first days go. I’m excited- it’s new, and my goals are still resounding in my head. I was also prepared to do well! I brought some amazing zucchini lasagna to work for lunch. The recipe is below, but first, here’s the story:
One of the best things to come from my Whole 30 was the replacement of pasta with zucchini. OMG. We didn’t know what we were missing, because from the very first zoodle, we loved it! In fact, when I make pasta dishes nowadays, I rarely use pasta. We prefer zucchini!
As I was planning my meals for this week, I thought about how much I have been wanting my grandmother’s lasagna, but since I wanted a low-carb alternative, I thought zucchini lasagna would be the perfect fix!
Whenever I try a new recipe, I always search Pinterest for some recipe to use as guidance, and then alter it the way I want it. Every zucchini lasagna recipe I could find said to use a mandolin, and thanks to one of my good friends, we’d recently acquired one as a wedding gift. I was stoked! I bought all the ingredients, got home, and eagerly awaited the time when I could use my new kitchen toy!
Only… as luck would have it, I soon discovered my trusty mandolin had been packed away. In one of about 20 boxes we’ve packed. Far, far, away. Sigh.
If you Google “How to cut zucchini lasagna without a mandolin,” the most popular method seems to be with a vegetable peeler. No problemo, we have several! So, I washed my zucchini, cut off the ends, and prepared to slice my zucchini.
Now… I have been cooking for a very long time. From a very young age, my mother and grandmothers taught me the basics of cooking, and as I grew, I eventually learned some of the finer points of culinary technique. Still, I am who I am, and who I am is sometimes a very, very clumsy, accident-prone girl.
So, lo and behold, on my very first slice, my peeler slipped, and instead of cutting a slice of zucchini, I cut a slice of my pointer finger. OUCH!!! I rushed to the bathroom to wrap my wound, where my heroic husband helped me bandage my gushing finger. And then, feeling defeated, I returned to the kitchen to face my zucchini.
What to do? I’d already started the filling, so it was too late to change the menu. So I stood there, staring at my zucchini, knife in hand, pondering what on Earth my next move would be.
And this is where my husband saved the day. He saw me, focusing my vision from knife to zucchini and back again, hovered over my cutting board. And without hesitation, he picked up the zucchini, took a knife, and started making meticulous slices of zucchini, one sliver at a time.
There are some times when I think he just doesn’t understand how much the little things he does affect me. Usually they make me giggle, or annoyed, but in this instance, I was overwhelmed with gratitude! And because I couldn’t contribute much to the process, I returned to the rest of the lasagna.
And we made dinner as a team. Like out of some movie. Awww…
And dinner was amazing!
The one thing I had to learn early on, though, is that zucchini may be a replacement for pasta, but it’s never going to be pasta. Never. It kinda can be made into the same consistency, but not really. And it doesn’t taste like pasta, it tastes like a vegetable. The first time I made zoodles with spaghetti sauce, I was sadly disappointed when I couldn’t get my zucchini soft and springy like a spaghetti noodle. But that’s not the zucchini way. Zoodles can either be crisp and firm, or soft and a bit mushy. Nothing else.
So, admittedly, although I went through all the motions of layering like lasagna, the end result was less like a stack of layers and more of a spoon of casserole. But still lovely! I have a lot of leftovers, but I’m looking forward to eating each and every one of them!
And so without further ado, here’s the recipe:
3 medium zucchini
1 lb lean ground beef
1 jar red pasta sauce (we use Newman’s Own Sockarooni for some extra veggies)
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches basil, chopped
Seasoning as you like it (salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, Cajun seasoning)
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium high heat. Line paper towel in a colander and drain beef for 2 minutes.
While the beef is draining, reduce heat to medium, add garlic to the skillet and saute until fragrant. Add onion and cook 1 minute until soft. Add beef back to skillet and stir.
Add pasta sauce and seasoning. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, USE A MANDOLIN to cut zucchini into 1/8 inch slices. Lightly salt slices and place in colander to drain.
After 30 minutes, add chopped basil to the sauce, and stir. Cook an additional 5 minutes uncovered.
Spray a 9×13 inch casserole dish with nonstick spray. Put a very thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom, and then add 1/3 of the zucchini noodles in a single layer. Add 1/3 of the remaining sauce, and then 1/3 of each type of cheese. Repeat twice, until there are 3 layers of each, ending with the cheese layer.
Cover the casserole, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Then, remove the cover and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly.
Cut into 8 slices, and serve.