Healthy low carb Zucchini Lasagna with layers of zucchini instead of traditional pasta. Classic comfort food experience but guilt free at only 338 calories per huge slice!
Table of contents
Zucchini lasagna with layers of delicious garlic and herb homemade meat sauce, low carb zucchini noodles and melted cheesy goodness on top. It is so good even zucchini hating kids loved it!
This recipe is definitely a labor of love and requires about 40 minutes of prep but the flavorful results are totally worth it.
Once you make it a few times, things will go even faster! Pour yourself a glass of wine, crank up Frank Sinatra and enjoy the process.
Ingredients You Will Need
Here are the healthier ingredients you will need for this zucchini lasagna! Find exact measurements below in the recipe card.
- Zucchini: Zucchini is a star of this lasagna. Look for straight zucchini.
- Ground meat: I used ground turkey as low fat poultry keeps this lasagna lean! But you can also use ground beef.
- Soft cheese: Cottage cheese replaces ricotta cheese to keep this lasagna lower in calories. But you can use ricotta cheese which yields more authentic lasagna flavor. Just keep in mind ricotta is lower in protein and higher in fat, carbs and sugars. You can also use low fat ricotta cheese.
- Egg: To help bind the soft cheese mixture.
- Tomato sauce: Low sodium plain tomato sauce from a can or crushed tomatoes. Marinara sauce may be used, but omit other spices.
- Spinach: Either a box of fresh spinach or frozen spinach that needs to be thawed.
- Grated cheese: Freshly shredded mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan cheese to spread on top.
- Italian spices: Dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Quinoa: Dry and uncooked quinoa absorbs a lot of moisture during baking, without adding many carbs and is both gluten free and a wholesome ingredient.
How to Make Zucchini Lasagna
Traditional flavors and a crowd pleasing meal starts right here! It’s all about the layers for this vegetable zucchini lasagna.
Prep zucchini lasagna noodles: Using a mandoline, boxed grater or sharp knife, slice zucchini into pasta sheets. I find the mandoline is the best way to get 1/8″ thick slices.
Sprinkle with salt and set aside. Before assembling, you will need to pat them dry with paper towels.
Salt zucchini to pull out moisture: Sprinkle your long zucchini noodles with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
Make meat sauce: Cook ground meat for 5 minutes, constantly breaking into small pieces and stirring.
Then we add dried oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper to cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and maple syrup to offset the acid in tomatoes.
Transfert to a bowl and set aside.
Wilt fresh spinach in batches in the same skillet. If using thawed spinach, squeeze liquid well. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Make soft cheese mixture: Combine ricotta cheese with egg and 1/2 tsp dried oregano.
If using the cottage, I recommend to puree with an immersion blender until smooth consistency. It makes a huge difference.
Final moisture squeeze: Pat dry your zucchini slices with paper towels as you transfer them to another dish or baking tray. Also, use your hands to squeeze as much liquid as possible from wilted zucchini.
Assemble lasagna: In 9″ x 13″ baking dish, add a few tablespoons of tomato meat sauce, spread with a spoon and sprinkle with quinoa. Place sliced zucchini overlapping a bit to create a single layer.
Spread 1/3 of tomato meat sauce, then 1/3 of ricotta mixture, sprinkle with 1/4 of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 of spinach.
Repeat until you run out of ingredients finishing with a layer of zucchini, topped with a bit of meat sauce, then sprinkled with remaining mozzarella cheese and all of Parmesan cheese.
Bake lasagna for about 50 minutes at 375 degrees F covered with aluminum foil or silicone lid for first 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes.
Let stand for 20 minutes before slicing. This step is super important as flavors will settle, “marry” each other and the whole dish will reabsorb a lot of liquid.
- Ground beef vs. ground poultry: Ground beef or pork, or combination of both will work and yield in more traditional lasagne taste. Ground turkey or ground chicken is a great low fat choice for this zucchini lasagna recipe. I make chicken lasagna roll ups all the time and they come out delicious.
- Green zucchini vs. yellow squash: You can use either. If you have patty pan squash, slice it and layer to overlap.
- Herbs: Italian season could be used in place of oregano and basil, I love it in Instant Pot lasagna. Chopped fresh basil would be amazing on top before serving!
How To Make Zucchini Lasagna Less Watery?
Here are my best tips to make zucchini noodles less watery:
- Salt. Place sliced zucchini in a single layer and sprinkle with salt, repeating with remaining zucchini. Set aside for 30 minutes. Salt will pull away moisture from zucchini making less watery casserole.
- Paper towels. Line large baking sheet with double layer of paper towels. Right before assembly, we pat dry each zucchini layer with paper towels transferring to another dish. You want to absorb moisture between each zucchini layer as much as possible.
- Quinoa sprinkled on the bottom of the pan will help absorb extra liquid during cooking. Don’t worry about liquid while baking. Once squash lasagna rests for about 20 minutes you will see there will be much less liquid left.
- Grill. You can grill sliced zucchini before assembling to help remove water and ‘dry them’. To do so, cut them a bit thicker.
But overall, I personally think, it’s OK to have more juices at the bottom of the dish. It makes for extra delicious sauce that doesn’t make a veggie lasagna soggy like it would traditional lasagna. So I think it’s even better to have more sauce at the bottom!
More Expert Tips and FAQs
- Mandoline slicer: While you can use a knife, box grater or mandoline to slice your zucchini noodles, I prefer the mandoline. Using a mandoline ensures even thickness. I highly recommend to wear cut resistant gloves.
- Large garden zucchini: May need to be cut in half for ‘noodles’ and might produce extra moisture.
- Extra moisture: Even with these tips you may find that there is extra moisture. Grab a turkey baster and quickly suction out desired amount of liquid around the edges of zucchini lasagna.
Lasagna is perfect for packing in the veggies! Any thinly sliced vegetables could be added as a layer. Try onions, mushrooms, or eggplant for example.
To make ahead, assemble and refrigerate tightly covered with plastic for up to 24 hours. Before baking you can remove extra water accumulated at the bottom of the dish with a turkey baster. Let ceramic or glass dish warm up on the counter for about 15 minutes before baking.
Leftover zucchini lasagna can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. It is already baked, settled and lost all its extra moisture. Just place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
To be honest, I have not tried freezing zucchini lasagna. Zucchini consists of 90% water, so it is not a good vegetable to freeze and thaw. If you try, please let me know in the comments!
Once prepared, this zucchini lasagna is a complete meal so you truly don’t need much to go with it. Serve it alone or alongside garlic bread or a good toast like rye bread, ciabatta or sourdough. A simple salad like lemon kale salad would be fantastic!
Other Pasta Recipes to Try
More Zucchini Recipes
- Zucchini tomato bake
- Zucchini casserole
- Chicken zucchini tomato recipe
- Sauteed zucchini
- Pad Thai zucchini noodles
Check out this list of 45 healthy zucchini recipes for even more ideas!
- 5 medium zucchini cut lengthwise into 1/8" thick slices
- 1 lb ground turkey or ground beef
- 1 tbsp oil for frying
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano divided
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt + more for zucchini
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp sugar, honey or maple syrup
- 2 x 14 oz cans tomato sauce low sodium
- 11 oz box fresh spinach or 1 package of frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed
- 15 oz tub cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp quinoa uncooked
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese grated
Prep zucchini slices:
- Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/8" thick slices. Line large baking sheet with double layer of paper towels.
- Place sliced zucchini in a single layer and sprinkle with salt, repeating with remaining zucchini. Set aside for 30 minutes. Salt will pull away moisture from zucchini making less watery zucchini lasagna.
Make meat sauce, cheese and spinach fillings:
- In the meanwhile, preheat large skillet on medium-high heat, swirl oil to coat and add ground meat. Cook for 5 minutes, constantly breaking into small pieces and stirring. Add 1 tsp oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper; cook for 30 seconds, stirring.
- Add tomato sauce and maple syrup; stir, bring to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
- Return skillet to medium heat, add spinach in batches as it starts to wilt, stirring in between. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
- In a medium bowl, add ricotta cheese, egg and 1/2 tsp oregano. If using cheese with large curds, puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Now it’s finally time to assemble zucchini lasagna.
- Pat dry each zucchini layer with paper towels transferring to another dish. You want to absorb moisture between each zucchini layer as much as possible. Using your hands squeeze as much liquid as possible from spinach and set side.
- In 9" x 13" baking dish, add a few tablespoons of tomato meat sauce, spread with a spoon and sprinkle with quinoa. Place sliced zucchini overlapping a bit to create a single layer. Spread 1/3 of tomato meat sauce, then 1/3 of ricotta cheese mixture, sprinkled with 1/4 of mozzarella and 1/3 of spinach.
- Repeat until you run out of ingredients finishing with a layer of zucchini, topped with a bit of meat sauce, then sprinkled with remaining mozzarella and all of Parmesan cheese.
- Bake covered with aluminum foil or silicone lid for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Let stand for 20 minutes before slicing. Cut into 8 slices and serve hot.
- Store: Refrigerate in an airtight glass container for up to 5 days. I would be hesitant to freeze it as squash consists of 90% water & isn’t a good vegetable to freeze and thaw. You can try!
- Make ahead: Assemble and refrigerate tightly covered with plastic for up to 24 hours. Before baking you can remove extra water accumulated at the bottom of the dish with a turkey baster. Let ceramic or glass dish warm up on the counter for about 15 minutes before baking.
- Slicing zucchini: You can slice zucchini using mandoline (wear cut resistant gloves) or grater with slicing blade.