I used to love the super cheesy lasagna of my formative years. It was definitely Italian-American inspired not authentic. And it was loaded with noodles, three different cheeses and meat sauce. I then discovered the Lasagna Bolognese which is lighter with very little cheese. My Whole30 Zucchini Lasagna is a hybrid of the two.
Traditional Italian American Lasagna
If you have gone to a potluck, an Italian restaurant anywhere in the midwest or you grew up in the 80s, you’ve probably had the Italian American version of lasagna. Long lasagna noodles with the wavy edges, ricotta (or cottage cheese) and parmesan layered with a meat sauce containing ground beef or if you were feeling fancy, Italian sausage. It was always topped with a thick layer of gooey mozzarella and more parmesan. It was a gluten-free, dairy-free person’s nightmare, if anyone had been aware of those things in the 80s.
Whole30 Zucchini Lasagna vs Italian American Lasagna
Similar to the version above, my Whole30 Zucchini Lasagna has long noodles in the form of thinly sliced zucchini. I layer it with a creamy filling, red sauce and Italian Sausage. To avoid dairy, I love using Kite Hill ricotta. It tastes almost identical to real ricotta. While it’s not absolutely necessary, you can use a dairy free parmesan or cashew parmesan if you want something that resembles cheese on top. A little fresh basil scattered on top, if you happen to have it, brightens it up.
Whole30 Zucchini Lasagna vs Traditional Lasagna Bolognese
The more authentic Lasagna Bolognese has flat noodles layered with a creamy meat sauce called Bolognese, Bechamel (AKA White Sauce) and a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. Similarly, mine has flat noodles (zucchini), sauce and meat. However, this traditional recipe even without hand rolling the pasta can take hours to make. To make it a weeknight meal, I use a high quality jarred sauce with no sugar and quickly cooked Italian sausage to replace the long cooking Bolognese. The ricotta filling comes together in two minutes versus cooking the bechamel for ten to fifteen.
Essential Ingredients for Whole30 Zucchini Lasagna
Since there are few ingredients in this recipe, you will want to buy the best quality. If you can’t find Italian sausage made with only ground pork, turkey or chicken (preferably pasture raised and/or organic) and spices, you can make it using my easy recipe which is no harder than making a burger. Then the other ingredients are zucchini, egg, garlic, Kite Hill ricotta, and sauce. You can certainly use a cheese as I mentioned above but I don’t count it as an ingredient simply because it really isn’t necessary and dairy free cheese isn’t always the best. If you do want to try one, I’ve heard VioLife Parmesan is really good. I made the cashew parmesan listed above and probably would leave it out next time. For reference, the photos show it both without and with the cashew parm.
Buying Sauce vs Making Sauce
I have always made my own sauce. But one of my long-time farmer friends makes sauce when she’s not growing flowers. When I was at the farmers’ market this winter and she didn’t have flowers, I still wanted to support her so I bought a couple of jars of her Roasted Tomato Sauce. She made it from tomatoes at the same farmers market. It was very good and saved me a ton of time.
When buying pizza, tomato or pasta sauces in a jar, here’s what I look for:
- Minimal ingredients – Tomatoes, garlic, onion, Basil or other herbs and spices are really all a good sauce needs.
- No oils other than extra virgin olive oil
- No forms of sugar (dextrose, corn syrup, cane sugar, etc.)
See the photo below for the ingredients in the sauce I bought and check out your local farmers market for freshly made sauces. I bet someone there makes them!
Steps to Making Zucchini Lasagna
Why You Need to Salt the Zucchini
Zucchini has a very high water content. To make sure you don’t end up with a watery mess, it’s important to salt the zucchini to remove excess moisture. Salting also opens the molecules of the zucchini so it can take on the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Slice the zucchini thinly with a mandoline or sharp knife
- Lay the zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with a double layer of paper towels (They can be really close together and slightly overlapping. You may need two baking sheets.)
- Salt the zucchini liberally with sea salt
- Let the zucchini stand while you gather remaining ingredients
- When you are ready to layer, use a second double layer of paper towels to blot moisture off of the zucchini
This method can be used with any watery vegetable cut into any shape. The vegetables I usually salt are summer squash (zucchini and yellow), eggplant, cabbage and cucumber. It is especially helpful for casseroles and salads, both instances you do not want extra water.
What to Serve with the Lasagna
While this lasagna is full of veggies, you can always add a salad for a fuller plate. If you want to add a Whole30 friendly appetizer or a different veggie other than a salad, serve Proscuitto Wrapped Asparagus. (Did you know asparagus spears are meant to be a finger food?)
How to Make Quick and Easy Whole30 Zucchini Lasagna
2-3 large zucchini
1 lb Italian Sausage
Sea Salt as needed
1 container Kite Hill Ricotta
5 garlic cloves
2 tsp Magic Salt
1 tsp oregano, divided
16 oz jar marinara sauce
Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese
- Cover 1-2 baking sheets with a double layer of paper towels.
- Thinly slice the zucchini using a mandoline or very sharp knife.
- Lay the zucchini in a single layer very close together.
- Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
- Cook Italian Sausage
- Whisk ricotta, egg, garlic, and magic salt in a medium bowl.
- Blot the zucchini off.
- Spray a 9 x 13 pan with avocado oil. Spread about 1/2 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan. Layer zucchini tightly together slightly overlapping.
- Spread half the ricotta mixture over the zucchini and sprinkle with half the oregano.
- Drizzle a little more sauce and top with half the sausage.
- Repeat the layers ending with a full layer of sauce and sausage.
- Sprinkle with cheese if using. (Add fresh basil after baking.)
- Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the zucchini has softened considerably and everything is bubbly.
Note: There may be affiliate links in this post. That means I may make a small commission that helps keep this blog running, but you never pay more. In fact, you often get a discount. Any products I recommend are products I love to use myself. If you have any questions, please see Disclaimer for more info or to contact me regarding this policy.