Zucchini Lasagna

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Grilled ribbons of zucchini stand in for lasagna noodles in this Italian comfort food entree. With layers of ricotta and marinara-coated ground beef, you won’t even realize this Zucchini Lasagna is a low-carb casserole.

A slice of zucchini lasagna on a white plate.


 

I adore Italian-American restaurant fare. (Case in point: I have a complete Italian Feast menu with inspiration from antipasto to tiramisu so we can all enjoy our own red plaid tablecloth bistro-inspired feast right at home!)

One of my favorite comfort food entrees at an Italian restaurant: lasagna. My Best Make Ahead Lasagna and Vegetable Lasagna earn rave reviews from my dinner guests and readers alike, and I adore the luscious layered concept so much, I’ve even created a Chocolate Lasagna so we can savor it for dessert.

And now, I’ve perfected a just-happens-to-be-low-carb lasagna recipe that swaps in thin slices of zucchini for regular noodles. All the extra veggies make this recipe extra nutritious, and the fluffy ricotta cheese and marinara sauce-coated ground beef pretty much guarantee no one will be missing the pasta. This naturally gluten-free entree is not the same as traditional lasagna, but it’s equally delicious in its own right!

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for zucchini lasagna.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Ground meat: Start with 2 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of ground Italian sausage, or 1 pound of each. You can also substitute ground turkey for a lighter lasagna.
  • Sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of sugar in your meat sauce, please leave it out. In my family, people add ¼ cup or even up to ½ cup.
  • Italian seasoning: It’s easy to make your own homemade Italian seasoning with dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram.
  • Fennel seeds: The seeds make the Italian sausage flavors pop. If you love the taste of a sweet tomato sauce, use just ground beef (no sausage), at least ¼ cup sugar, and omit the fennel seeds.
  • Grilled zucchini: Grilling the zucchini helps remove excess moisture from the slices, ensuring you do not have a wet or soupy lasagna. You could also use a mix of zucchini and yellow squash or all yellow squash if you prefer; they perform and taste similarly in this homemade lasagna recipe. In a perfect world, we would all own a mandoline to get the thinnest possible slices of zucchini, but you can use a sharp chef’s knife and you’ll be good.
  • Ricotta cheese: Buy a container at the store, or make your own ricotta if you have time; you need just 4 ingredients (milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt).

Step-by-step instructions

To make the sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add beef (or sausage) and onion, and cook until mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain if desired. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Meat and onion being cooked in a silver stockpot.
  1. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, and fennel seeds. Simmer uncovered until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like 1 ½ teaspoon salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper). You should have about 2 quarts of sauce.
Sauce for zucchini lasagna in a silver stockpot.

To grill the zucchini:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place grilling pan into oven. Oil a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a large bowl, add zucchini slices, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Toss to combine.
Zucchini strips in a clear bowl.
  1. Remove the preheated grill pan from oven, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and heat over high heat. Working in batches, grill zucchini until grill marks are on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and grill until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining zucchini strips.
Grilled zucchini slices on a wooden cutting board.

For the ricotta filling:

  1. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, parsley, and salt. Chill until sauce and zucchini are finished.
Cheese mixture for zucchini lasagna in a clear bowl.

To assemble and bake the lasagna:

  1. In the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch dish, spread 2 cups meat sauce. Arrange a single layer of zucchini noodles over the meat sauce. Spread with a heaping 2/3 cups ricotta mixture. Top with about 1 ½ cups mozzarella. Sprinkle with ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese.
A baking dish of Zucchini Lasagna before fully assembled.
  1. Spoon 2 cups meat sauce over the cheese. Make another layer of zucchini, ricotta mixture (2/3 cup), mozzarella (1 ½ cups), and Parmesan (⅓ cup). Repeat layers one more time, for a total of three layers.
A baking dish of Zucchini Lasagna before being baked.
  1. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until bubbling hot, and cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley, if desired.
Someone holding a baking dish of zucchini lasagna.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This Zucchini Lasagna is made in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, enough for 12 generous slices.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Make this recipe up to 3 days before you need it and keep it in the refrigerator. Reheat until heated through in a 375-degree oven until heated through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees on a digital thermometer.
  • Perk things up with pesto: Zucchini season delightfully overlaps with basil season. So if you have a jar of pesto in the pantry, or homemade pesto in the refrigerator, I fully support adding a surprise layer inside this Zucchini Lasagna for extra summer flavor.
  • Round out the menu: Get your Italian fix with Garlic Bread, Caesar Salad, Antipasto Salad, Bruschetta, a full Antipasto Platter, and Pizzelle or Tiramisu for dessert. And, sip on a cool Granita or your favorite bottle of red wine.
  • More zucchini recipes: Try Zucchini Parmesan, Stuffed Zucchini, and Roasted Zucchini.
A slice of zucchini lasagna on a white plate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I skip all the cans of tomatoes and just use store-bought sauce?

You sure can. You’ll need 2 quarts (64 ounces) of sauce for one pan of lasagna. You might want to add a little extra water if the sauce is on the thick side. This lasagna recipe uses a fairly wet sauce so the zucchini noodles can soften in the liquid.

Can I bake Zucchini Lasgana in a disposable aluminum pan?

For a potluck-friendly (or busy weeknight) option, assemble Zucchini Lasagna in a recyclable 9- by 13-inch aluminum pan. It works well!

More tasty recipes to try

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A slice of zucchini lasagna on a white plate.

Zucchini Lasagna

Grilled ribbons of zucchini stand in for lasagna noodles in this Italian comfort food entree. With layers of ricotta and marinara-coated ground beef, you won't even realize this is a low-carb casserole.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 12 servings (1 slice each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Calories 510
5 from 5 votes

Ingredients 

For the sauce:

For the zucchini:

  • 2 pounds zucchini ends trimmed and sliced lengthwise into ¼ inch slices (see note 5)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for oiling dish

For the ricotta filling:

For assembly:

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place grilling pan into oven. Oil a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

To make the sauce:

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add beef (or sausage) and onion, and cook until mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain if desired. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, and fennel seeds. Simmer uncovered until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like 1 ½ teaspoon salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper). You should have about 2 quarts of sauce.

To make the zucchini:

  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add zucchini slices, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Toss to combine.
  • Remove preheated grill pan from oven, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and heat over high heat. Working in batches, grill zucchini until grill marks are on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and grill until tender, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from pan and place on paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

To make the ricotta filling:

  • In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, parsley, and salt. Chill until sauce and zucchini are finished.

To assemble and bake the lasagna:

  • In the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch dish, spread 2 cups meat sauce. Arrange a single layer of zucchini over the meat sauce. Spread with heaping 2/3 cups ricotta mixture. Top with about 1 ½ cups mozzarella. Sprinkle with ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese.
  • Spoon 2 cups meat sauce over the cheese. Make another layer of zucchini, ricotta mixture (2/3 cup), mozzarella (1 ½ cups) and Parmesean (⅓ cup). Repeat layers one more time, for a total of three layers.
  • Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until bubbling hot, and cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Ground meat: You can do 2 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of ground Italian sausage, or 1 pound of each.
  2. Sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of sugar in your meat sauce, please leave it out. In my family, people add ¼ cup or even up to ½ cup.
  3. Italian seasoning: It’s easy to make your own homemade Italian seasoning with dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
  4. Fennel seeds: The seeds make the Italian sausage flavors pop. If you love the taste of a sweet tomato sauce, use just ground beef (no sausage), at least ¼ cup sugar, and omit the fennel seeds.
  5. Grilled Zucchini: grilling zucchini helps remove water from the slices, ensuring you do not have a wet or soupy lasagna.
  6. Ricotta cheeseMake your own ricotta with just 4 ingredients: Milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt.
  7. Yield: This Zucchini Lasagna is made in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, enough for 12 generous slices.
  8. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 510kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 33gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 16gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 128mgSodium: 967mgPotassium: 964mgFiber: 4gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 1208IUVitamin C: 26mgCalcium: 435mgIron: 4mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. Question:
    Hi, Mary Ellen Roussin here.
    If I make a lasagna with a white sauce with zucchini and mushroom layers(no meat) can i still use the lasagna noodles you boil in sauce if I put it in the fridge for 6 hours or so? Thank you.

    1. Hi Mary Ellen, I haven’t tried it myself, so I can’t say for sure, sorry about that! There might be a lot of liquid using a white sauce and two vegetables that give off liquid when cooked. It might work well if you’re using regular lasagna noodles and allowing to sit so the noodles to absorb the liquid. No-boil or oven ready noodles might become soggy if they sit. I can’t say for sure, and wouldn’t want you to go through all that effort to come out with a soggy mess. I’m so sorry again! – Meggan