Lasagna with Zucchini

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Layered for your pleasure.

Lasagna is a favorite in our household. Brad orders it whenever we go to a fancy Italian restaurant, and I find it a shame that most only experience it in the form of Stouffer’s frozen lasagna brick. It really is not very hard to make for yourself. It’s also infinitely customizable, like all pasta dishes. In this case, I used ground beef and zucchini, but I also like to use spicy Italian sausage, or seasoned ground turkey or whatever I happen to have in the fridge. Meat, pasta, sauce, cheese and a possible veggie- it’s really hard to screw up.  Exact measurements are pretty irrelevant in pasta dishes, which is partially why I love to make them so much.

So next time you reach for that frozen lasagna at the grocery store, turn away and pick up the ingredients for this. It will take barely any more effort, no more time, and taste at least twice as good.

Lasagna with Zucchini
Serves 4-6 

1.25 lbs ground beef
1 jar pasta sauce
Dash red pepper flakes
5-6 lasagna noodles
3 small zucchini
1 cup of part-skin ricotta
salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregeno, basil to taste
1-2 tablespoons of milk

Start by filling a pot half full of water and turn on the heat.  Well, I actually started by turning on the oven to 375 degrees. Then I put the pot on. But anyway, once you have that going, work on browning some meat. This time I used 1.25 lbs of 93/7 ground beef. Like I said earlier, you can use pretty much any kind of meat, though I have always stuck with meat of the ground persuasion. Italian sausage is really, really good, but I had beef this time, so that’s what I used.

While the meat is cooking, slice up three small zucchinis lengthwise, about 1/8 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and let them sit for a while. When the beef is cooked, drain the excess grease and add pasta sauce (I used Classico Traditional Sweet Basil) and a dash of red pepper flakes. Stir it up and let it simmer on low heat.

When the water started boiling, add in about 5-6 lasagna noodles. I’ve found that breaking off about 2 inches from the ends before cooking makes assembling the lasagna easier, but you can always cut the pieces to fit after they’ve cooked. Let those noods boil until they are al dente or whatever dente you like.

As the noodles cook, mix 1 cup of part-skin ricotta with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregeno, basil and 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Some people use eggs in their ricotta, but I don’t really see the point. You can also add Parmesan to this mixture but I happened to be running low and wanted to have some for topping. I use the milk to make the ricotta mixture smoother and easier to spread on the noodles, so don’t panic if you don’t have any.

When the noods are finished cooking, drain ’em, set them aside and kill the heat on the meat sauce. Using a paper towel, wipe the salt and excess liquid from the zucchini slices. Doing this salt/wipe helps to keep your lasagna from getting too soupy from the water in the zucchini.

Now- for assembly. Put an 8″x8″ glass baking dish in front of you. Add a little of the sauce mixture to the dish and spread it over the bottom so the noodles won’t stick. Add a layer of noodles on top of the sauce. I use two noodles and then fill in the rest with the broken end pieces. You can, I suppose, use 3 noodles and discard the broken ends, but that seems wasteful to me. Anyway, after the noods are in place, smear half the ricotta mixture on top of them. I really hate this step because it is frustrating, since you won’t really be able to evenly cover the whole thing but you know what? It doesn’t actually matter. Just do your best and it will turn out great anyway. On top of the ricotta, layer half of the zucchini slices. I put mine in the opposite direction of the noodles, but I had no particular reason for doing so. Add half the remaining sauce in a layer on top of the zucchini, and repeat the layering process above. The top layer should be the rest of the sauce.

Finally, cover (I mean COVER) the top with shredded mozzarella cheese. You can also add sprinkles of Parmesan on top of this. Pop that baby in the oven until the cheese is melty and bubbly and browning on the edges.

Again, as with bread pudding, lasagna is a dish that is best served cooled. Let it sit on the stove for 5-10 minutes to cool. This will allow it to solidify a bit and make it a lot easier to serve. While I was waiting, I made a simple side salad, which made the time go by quickly and I wasn’t tempted to cut into it before it was ready.

Cut, scoop out with a spatula, top with Parmesan and devour. Nom nom nom.


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