I crave any and every kind of carb on a daily basis, but with the blaring summer months upon us, a big bowl of carbs isn’t always *gasp* what makes me feel best. That was the impetus for this creation — swap traditional lasagna noodles for a beautiful, summer vegetable: zucchini! I also tweaked the traditional bolognese by swapping lentils for ground beef and using dairy-free ricotta as a final adjustment. The result is a light, healthy, nutritious, but still wildly flavorful and delicious summer lasagna. Buon Appetito!
Zucchini Lentil Bolognese Lasagna
2 large zucchinis, ends lopped and cut into thin ribbons
2 large carrots
1/2 sweet onion
2 stalks of celery
1 fresno or red chili pepper, minced*
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus a bit for drizzling
1 cup red wine
2 T tomato paste
1 can of organic brown lentils (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
1/4 cup light coconut milk (the white part)
6 oz Kite Hill Ricotta (or regular ricotta)
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Table salt for the zucchini sweating
1 T ghee or organic butter (optional)
Preheat oven to 375F.
Layer your zucchini ribbons onto sheets of paper towels. Sprinkle salt on each ribbon and let sit for roughly 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce. The zucchini will start to ‘sweat’. Blot off the excess moisture, flip them, re-sprinkle salt, and repeat the process. This may seem unnecessary, but it will prevent your lasagna from being soggy. Trust me. Zucchini needs it’s sauna time.
Place your onions into the food processor and blitz it into tiny pieces. Place the onions into a separate bowl, and then repeat the blitzing with your carrots and celery. Warm your olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep sauté pan. Toss in your onions and sprinkle generously with sea salt and a smattering of black pepper. Sauté for five minutes then add carrots, celery, and chili pepper. Sauté for another five to seven minutes. Add your red wine to the mix and stir well. Let the mixture simmer for roughly three minutes. Mix in tomato paste, coconut milk, and lentils. Taste for additional seasoning (I tend to be generous with the sea salt). Let this pile of goodness cook down for another five to 10 minutes, and then remove from the heat. If it seems to watery, let it simmer a bit longer or kick up the heat. If using ghee or butter, melt and stir into the mix.
Place enough sauce into the base of a square casserole dish (mine is 7 1/2”) to lightly coat the entire base. Cover with one layer of zucchini noodles, placed side-by-side. Crumble a 1/3 of your cheese on top of the noodles and another thin layer of sauce to cover the zucchini. Repeat this two more times (you’ll most likely have three layers of zucchini) and top the final layer of zucchini with sauce and a good drizzle of olive oil and sea salt (skip the ricotta for the top). Bake covered for 20 minutes and remove the lid for the 10 more or until the zucchinis have golden speckles and a good bubbling is rolling.
Remember this isn’t traditional lasagna, so be dainty when you cut into your pieces and transfer to individual plates. I recommend using a large spatula to transfer your pieces.
*If you don’t like spicy, you can skip the pepper. If you can’t find a good chili pepper, you can always use dried red chili pepper flakes, or a spicy olive oil like Lucini’s Fiery Chili Extra Virgin Olive Oil (in which case do 1/4 cup regular oil and 1/4 cup spicy).
**If you can’t find Kite Hill Ricotta, and you prefer a dairy-free cheese, blend 1 cup soaked cashews, 1/4 cup veggie broth, 1/4 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, and good pinch of sea salt. Adjust your liquids to find a ricotta-like consistency.