Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Low Carb Zucchini Lasagna (or Hearts of Palm)


It's been eight years since I posted a lasagna recipe and, now that I'm living gluten and grain free, it's time for an updated version. My husband brought home two gorgeous, organic zucchini the other day and my plan was to spiralize them and make spaghetti. But because today was a cold and rainy spring day in Maine, I decided to make a warm and comforting baked lasagna instead. Instead of pasta noodles, I cut my zucchini lengthwise into narrow slices and used them between the layers of cheese and sauce. (You can substitute hearts of palm noodles in place of the zucchini.) It's important to place the zucchini slices between paper towels and leave at room temperature for at least an hour (or longer) to allow the moisture to be drawn out of this watery vegetable before assembling the casserole. The ricotta cheese mixture and meat sauce can be made a day or two ahead so, when it's time to assemble and bake, the prep time is minimal. Whether made with zucchini or hearts of palm noodles, this recipe is definitely a keeper! The lasagna was so delicious and, because it is a complete and balanced meal by itself, you don't even need to worry about a side dish. Keep life simple!

Low Carb Zucchini Lasagna (or Hearts of Palm)
Makes 6 servings

2 large zucchini, about 9 inches long or 9 oz package of hearts of palm lasagna noodles (drained, rinsed and dried), such as Palmini or Natural Heaven brand)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Ricotta Cheese Filling:
15 oz. of whole milk or part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup of chopped fresh spinach (or 1/2 cup frozen, squeezed and drained of moisture)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon of Italian herb seasoning
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 egg, slightly beaten

Meat Sauce:
3/4 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (or substitute ground beef)
2 cups marinara or your favorite pasta sauce, no sugar added

1. Prepare the zucchini ahead of time by slicing lengthwise into thin slices (about 3/16-inch wide). If you have one, a mandoline works well to make even, thin slices, otherwise cut with a large knife. Lay the slices in a single layer on several layers of paper towel, sprinkle very sparingly with salt and cover with several more layers of paper towel. If desired, you can place a baking sheet over them and weight it with canned goods or other objects. Allow the zucchini slices to remain at room temperature between the paper towels for at least one hour (or longer) to draw out the excess moisture. Wipe off any excess salt before assembling the lasagna. (If using hearts of palm noodles, you can skip this step.)
Step by Step Pictorial

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the Ricotta Cheese Filling ingredients and stir until well combined. Set aside. (If making ahead, refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the lasagna.)

3. In a large skillet, brown the sausage and add the pasta sauce. Stir to combine and set aside. (This can be made ahead and refrigerated, if desired.)

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. To assemble the lasagna, spray a baking pan with non-stick spray or grease with coconut oil or butter. Spoon in about 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce (no sausage) and spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Lay down a layer of the zucchini slices or hearts of palm noodles, overlapping just slightly, until the bottom of the pan is covered. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta filling over the zucchini or noodles and spread into an even layer, covering the slices. Top with 1/3 of the meat sauce and spread to edges. Sprinkle sauce with 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

5. Repeat with a layer of zucchini slices or noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta filling, 1/3 of the meat sauce and 1/4 cup mozzarella.

6. Repeat a final time with a layer of zucchini slices or noodles, the remaining ricotta filling, the remaining meat sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.

7. Cover with the pan lid or tightly with foil (spray the foil with non-stick spray to prevent the cheese from sticking). Bake for 50-60 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Natural Heaven Hearts of Palm Lasagna Noodles
Nutritional Information per serving made with zucchini (1/6th of recipe): 482 calories, 14 g carbohydrate (3 g dietary fiber, 6.8 g sugars), 36.6 g total fat (15.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 120 mg cholesterol, 968 mg sodium, 376 mg calcium, 560 mg potassium, 277 mg Vit A, 1 mg iron, 26.8 g protein. Net carbs per serving: 11 grams

Nutritional Information made with hearts of palm noodles (1/6th of recipe): 478 calories, 10.1 g carbohydrate (1.7 g dietary fiber, 3.4 g sugars), 36.2 g total fat (15.4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 120 mg cholesterol, 981 mg sodium, 369 mg calcium, 386 mg potassium, 1 mg iron, 708 mg Vit A, 26.4 g protein. Net carbs per serving: 8.4 grams.

Photos and recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2017, updated 2020
All rights reserved. Please do not duplicate without author's permission.

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