I believe the person who invented lasagna has been canonized. They’re marked down in history for healing troubled hearts, calming frazzled nerves and bringing joy to the soul with food, glorious food.
Homemade lasagna has always been one of my favorite dishes. But these days, I barely have time to scramble eggs, let alone invest two hours in preparing dinner. Lasagna just isn’t a very practical meal for a busy working parent like me.
Today was the kind of day that demanded lasagna, though. It was cold outside, I had fractionally more time than normal to make dinner, and I just had to have it. So I created a “Cheater’s Lasagna” recipe that was on the table in half the time…and with probably double the nutritional benefit.
My cheat? I nixed the noodles in favor of quick-cooking, thinly sliced zucchini. The end result was delicious. We wiped out half the pan in 10 minutes, and we grudgingly saved the other half for lunch tomorrow. (I can’t wait…it’s lunchtime somewhere in the world, right?)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes
Time to Consume: About 57 seconds
4 small zucchini
1 lb. mild Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion
15 oz. tomato sauce (low-sodium preferred)
6 oz. tomato paste
1 T. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic (sub option: 1 tsp. garlic powder)
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms (add or sub any other veggies you like…artichoke hearts, chopped spinach, shredded carrot, etc.)
1 cup ricotta cheese (sub option: small-curd cottage cheese)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Cutting board and knife
9x13 baking dish
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Peel the zucchini, slice it thinly into discs and set it aside. (See pic below.)
In a large saucepan, cook the Italian sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spoon.
While the sausage cooks, dice your onion and toss it in. Cook and stir until the sausage is browned and the onions are slightly caramelized.
Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and garlic. Stir well. (If the sauce seems overly thick, add a ½ cup of water.)
Stir in the mushrooms and any other veggies you like. Turn off the heat.
In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese and eggs until smooth.
Spray a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil (or whatever non-stick spray you have).
Spoon 1/3 of the tomato mixture into the bottom of the dish. Cover with a layer of zucchini slices. Then spoon 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the zucchini and sprinkle with 2/3 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the tomato mixture, zucchini, ricotta and mozzarella layers once more. Top with the remaining tomato mixture and mozzarella cheese.
Slide the lasagna into the oven and bake for 40 minutes (or until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned).
Remove from the oven and let the lasagna rest for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with a little fresh Parmesan if you’re feeling fancy.
With zucchini in place of noodles, this lasagna will leave you feeling warm and happy but not so full you’re ready to fall into a deep state of hibernation. After all, the holidays are approaching, and who has time for that?
Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did. (Go ahead! Go back for seconds.) And Merry Christmas from our family to yours.