Crispy baked zucchini with three cheeses and homemade tomato sauce. Yeah. I’m in. Food is love. And if you happen to know any old-school Italian women, you’ll know you CAN NOT leave the table without trying THEIR dish. That’s just the way it is, so happily accept it.
I was at a baby shower recently and I had to leave early to make the long road trip back to Toronto. Giuseppina, the great-grandmother-to-be had added some of her dishes to the table. And one of them was zucchini lasagna. She said she had so many zucchini in her garden, she didn’t know what to do with them. What she made with a bit of sauce and cheese was stellar.
So I drove home, inspired and stuffed with homemade zucchini lasagna and arancini (that recipe coming soon) and all manner of other “light” snacks.
Giuseppina fries her strips of breaded zucchini in oil on the stove before putting them in her lasagna. I decided to bake mine instead. So here’s my interpretation of zucchini lasagna.
Here’s your RTI:
Zucchini contain a lot of water, so do take the step of lightly salting them and letting them sit for 10 minutes on a rack. You will see the beads of moisture pop up on the surface, which you just sop up gently with a paper towel.
If you don’t want to make this a sauce-y dish, you could very easily just make the baked zucchini. You could literally just stop there. I had to stop myself from eating them all and having nothing to make a lasagna with! They have a great crunch. You could also add more flavour to the bread crumb mixture with more or different kinds of cheese or panko crumbs for extra crunch and some dried italian herbs.
- Cutting board
- Big knife (or a mandolin, but they kind of scare me)
- Racks or large plate to lay the zucchini slices out for salting
- Cheese grater
- Bowl for the cheese filling
- Bowl for the egg wash for dipping
- Flatter dish for breadcrumb mix
- Offset spatula to spread ricotta or a knife or a spoon
- Baking sheets
- Baking dish (I used a 9x9x2 inch baking dish)
- 4 zucchini – mine were not tiny nor were they huge
- Salt for sprinkling on the zucchini
- 3 eggs (2 for the egg wash and 1 for the cheese filling)
- 1 tub of ricotta (454g)
- 1 cup plus extra of parmesan or romano cheese, finely grated (half goes in the cheese filling, the other half goes into the breadcrumb mix, the extra is for topping the lasagna for that ridiculously tasty golden cheesey crust)
- 1 ball of mozzarella cheese, shred 3/4 of the ball and have the rest of the ball on hand if you want more
- 3-4 cups homemade tomato sauce with meat or without. It’s your preferecne (see my Momma P’s homemade tomato recipe here )
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (start with that but have more available). I used gluten-free bread crumbs as I cook just as often gluten-free as not and that is what I had on hand. Wheat or not, the recipe will work well.
Here’s “The How”:
- Wash and finely slice the zucchini lengthwise – do the best you can to make the zucchini slices even. If you have a mandolin, and aren’t afraid to use it, that’s probably your best tool. Having said that, I don’t mind a bit of a thicker slice of zucchini. Gives the dish texture.
- Lay the zucchini on large plates or on racks and lightly salt them. Let them sit 10 minutes. Dab the moisture that comes up with a paper towel.
- Start with cracking two eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork. The bowl should be enough that you can easily slide zucchini slices into to coat
- In another bowl or flat plate, mix the 1 cup breadcrumbs with 1/2 cup parmesan or romano cheese and add some black pepper to taste. Mix.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Shred your mozzarella ball.
- Take your baking or cookie sheet and give it a generous brush of olive oil. You don’t want the zucchini to stick.
- Then take your zucchini slices, one at a time, dipping them in the egg wash first and then the breadcrumbs, getting as much of both sides covered as possible and then lay the slices on the baking sheet. Continue until they’re all breaded.
- Pop your baking sheets full of breaded zucchini slices into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes until golden. You can flip them if you want to but I didn’t have to. Allow them to cool.
- While the zucchini slices are cooling, in another bowl, mix the tub of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of parmesan or romano cheese and 1 egg.
- Splash enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of your 9-inch x 9-inch x 2-inch deep baking dish. I ended up with 4 or 5 layers in this size of dish. If you use a mandolin, which may slice your zucchini thinner than if you do it by hand, you may end up with more layers so the thinner your layers, the “thinner” your layer of cheese and sauce in between each one. Make sense?
- Then lay down one layer of zucchini, with the slices side by side.
- Top with a layer of ricotta mixture. I use a spoon to drop ricotta on, then an offset spatula to spread it around. You can also use a knife or a plain spoon to smooth things out.
- Top with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Top with some sauce. Spread the sauce to the sides of the baking dish.
- On the next layer, lay the zucchini down the other way.
- Repeat the layering process until you’ve used all your zucchini slices or you reach the top of the baking dish.
- For the top layer, spread more mozzarella and top again with your parmesan or romano cheese and some sauce, bringing sauce to the edges. Don’t drown it in sauce but you do want to have enough sauce so the lasagna isn’t dry.
- Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until you see the sauce bubbling.
- Remove the foil and bake for 5-10 more minutes to get a golden top.
It is delicious. And easy. And I hope you love it. ENJOY!