This comforting Zucchini Lasagna with meat sauce is the perfect low-carb family meal. Cheesy, saucy, and healthy, it features slices of fresh zucchini in place of the noodles, for a quick keto-friendly swap you’ll love.
An Easy, Cheesy Low-Carb Lasagna Recipe
There’s just something about having a lasagna in the oven, isn’t there? Velvety layers of soft cheese filling, hearty meat sauce, and melty mozzarella are pure comfort food. They’re also low-carb, until you add noodles. Which is why zucchini lasagna has become so popular! Thin slices of zucchini make a great keto-friendly substitute for ordinary wheat pasta, with a pleasantly mild taste and just a fraction of the carbs!
If you are looking to build up a menu of healthy, hearty meals that your family will actually eat, you’ve got to add this one to the list. It has all the indulgent taste and texture you love about real lasagna, with a simple low-carb twist that’s a cinch to pull off.
What You’ll Need
This recipe includes a homemade meat sauce using crushed tomatoes, seasonings, and more. You could also substitute your favorite bottled pasta sauce – I won’t tell!
- Zucchini: Thinly slice them into lengthwise strips. You can peel them first or leave the peels on – it’s up to you.
- Flour: Just a smidge, to coat the zucchini and give it a better texture. Feel free to omit this if you need to.
- Mozzarella: I like to put a bit of mozzarella into the cheese filling, for extra texture and flavor. The rest is for layering into the lasagna for a temptingly melty result.
- Ground Beef: Lean ground beef needs less draining, but fattier ground beef (such as ground chuck) tends to be more flavorful.
- Onion: Chop up a yellow onion.
- Garlic: I like to use freshly minced or pressed garlic, but garlic powder is also fine.
- Cottage Cheese: Or ricotta. Ricotta is more traditional, but sometimes cottage cheese is easier to find.
- Eggs: To help bring the cheese filling together.
- Parmesan: Just a little Parm adds so much flavor to the cheese filling. Don’t skip it!
- Crushed Tomatoes: In a can or a box, whichever.
- Olive Oil
- Seasonings: Oregano, salt, pepper, and some chili flakes or crushed red pepper.
- Fresh Basil: For garnish.
How to Make Zucchini Lasagna, Step by Step
While lasagna is often thought of as a time-consuming dish, this version is actually very easy – even with the homemade sauce! And there’s no need to pre-cook the zucchini, which makes things that much simpler.
- Salt the Zucchini and Allow to Drain. To start, spread the zucchini slices out on a paper towel, and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Allow them to sit for 15 minutes to draw out the excess moisture.
- Make the Sauce. While the zucchini is resting, heat up the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the pan, sprinkle with salt, and saute for a few minutes or until soft. Add the ground beef, and break it up into small pieces as it browns. When there’s no pink left, drain as needed, and then stir in your crushed tomatoes, reserving a generous half-cup for the bottom of the baking dish. Stir in the seasonings. Let the sauce simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Mix Up the Cheese Filling. While the sauce simmers, you can make the cheese filling. All you have to do is mix the cottage cheese (or ricotta), eggs, Parmesan, and one cup of mozzarella in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and stir well to combine.
- Clean and Flour the Zucchini Slices. By now, the zucchini slices are probably ready to go! Wipe or rinse away excess salt and moisture, and pat dry. Sprinkle with flour and toss gently to coat.
- Prep the Oven and Baking Dish. Preheat your oven to 375°F, and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray or oil. Spread the reserved crushed tomatoes over the bottom of the baking dish.
- Layer the Ingredients. Lay a set of floured zucchini slices over the sauce, making a single layer, as you would with lasagna noodles. Spread half of the cottage cheese mixture over the zucchini, and sprinkle with ⅓ of the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat the Same Layers. Add another layer of meat sauce to the dish, followed by a layer of zucchini, then the cottage cheese mixture, and then more mozzarella.
- Top the Zucchini Lasagna and Bake. Finish the lasagna with a final layer of zucchini slices, two tablespoons of meat sauce spread thinly, and more mozzarella. Then bake it for 45 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.
- Cool and Serve. Take the finished lasagna out of the oven, and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.
How Do You Cut Zucchini for Lasagna with a Knife?
There are two ways: use a mandoline, or use a large, sharp knife. If you’re using a mandoline, set it to cut ⅛ inch thick. Work slowly and cautiously to avoid cutting your fingers on the mandoline.
If you’re using a sharp knife, cut a thin strip from one side of the zucchini to make a flat edge. Then balance the zucchini on that flat edge, and slowly make thin, long cuts to create ⅛-inch slices. It can take some practice to get them even, but that’s okay – it doesn’t have to be perfect to taste fantastic.
The salting step gets the excess moisture out of the zucchini, which is why this lasagna isn’t watery. Make sure to let the zucchini drain for at least 15 minutes, but not more than 20 or so. You don’t want them getting too soft. Additionally, coating the zucchini strips in flour helps absorb excess moisture and thicken the sauce.
It’s definitely a good idea to remove the excess salt and liquid from the zucchini when they’re done draining. You can rinse them and pat dry, or just pat them with a clean paper towel – this may leave behind some salt, but not much.
Tips for Success
This recipe makes a great basic lasagna, but you should also know that you can play around with it in lots of ways. From tweaking the seasonings to adding more veggies, there are tons of options for making this fit your pantry and dietary needs.
- Use Whatever Meat You Like: Ground turkey, pork, chicken, or even sausage would work perfectly, so feel free to substitute your favorite.
- Go Meatless: If you would like to make this a totally vegetarian lasagna, you could substitute your favorite plant-based “meat” or just some cooked vegetables for the ground beef. Seasoned tofu crumbles, chopped mushrooms and onions, or even some blanched, seasoned cauliflower are all great ideas.
- Add Veggies: Want more veggie power in that sauce? No problem! I love sneaking in some chopped spinach, grated carrots, or finely-chopped broccoli florets.
- Not-Quite-Keto: If you want to substitute pasta for half of the zucchini noodles, go for it! Just boil a small amount of traditional lasagna noodles according to the package directions, and make one layer of zucchini and a second layer of pasta.
What to Serve with Zucchini Lasagna
An all-in-one dish like lasagna really doesn’t need sides, but it’s still nice to add a couple if you have time. Here are some of our favorites:
- Bread: For those not on the keto or low-carb lifestyle, adding some garlic bread or homemade Garlic and Herb Focaccia is a perfect choice. Sop up the sauce with some great bread!
- Roasted Veggies: You can’t go wrong with a tray of simple roasted veggies, can you? I am especially crazy about the combo of radishes and brussels sprouts. Check out this easy recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Radishes – they’re incredibly easy to make and so full of flavor.
- Salad: A side salad is a classic partner for homemade lasagna. For a different twist, try serving these luscious Caprese Stuffed Avocado halves instead of a regular garden salad. So yummy!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
- Storing and reheating a casserole like this is simple. Let it cool down first, and then portion out the leftovers into airtight containers – or just cover the whole thing tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Stick it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- To reheat, you can microwave this or bake it again. If you use the microwave, be sure to cover the lasagna loosely with a paper towel to prevent messy spatters. If you bake it, just pop it in a preheated oven (350°F) until it’s hot all the way through. This should take 15 – 20 minutes.
Make-Ahead and Freezing Instructions
- You can prep zucchini lasagna the night before, and keep it in the fridge for the next day. Just assemble as directed, but then cover the unbaked casserole (bonus points if your baking dish has a lid!) and chill until ready to bake. It will keep for up to 24 hours like this.
- For even longer-term storage, make the casserole as directed and let it cool until it’s nearly room temperature (cover loosely while it cools). Cover tightly by wrapping the whole casserole dish in a layer of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of foil. Mark with the date and freeze for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise into ⅛ inch strips.
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1½ pounds ground beef
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 ounces cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup fresh basil, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray or oil.
- Sprinkle salt over the zucchini slices, and then lay them out on a layer of paper towels to drain. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes.
- While the zucchini is resting, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Season with salt.
- Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, and then add the ground beef. Brown the meat, breaking it up with a spatula as you go, until no pink remains, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, reserving a generous half-cup for the bottom of the baking dish. Stir in the seasonings. Bring to a simmer, and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, combine the cottage cheese, a cup of shredded mozzarella, the eggs, and the Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir well to combine.
- Wipe the excess salt and liquid from the zucchini slices with a clean paper towel. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with flour. Toss to coat.
- Spread the reserved crushed tomatoes over the bottom of your previously prepared baking dish.
- Arrange 1/3 of the floured zucchini slices over the sauce in a single layer. Top with 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture, and sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.
- Add another layer of meat sauce to the dish, followed by zucchini, then the cottage cheese mixture, and then more mozzarella.
- Finish the lasagna with a final layer of zucchini slices, two tablespoons of meat sauce spread thinly, and more mozzarella.
- Bake in your preheated oven until bubbly and the top of the lasagna is golden-brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
- Garnish with fresh basil, if desired, and serve.