Friday, July 3, 2015

Squash Noodle Lasagna

This pasta-less lasagna substitutes thinly sliced summer squash or zucchini for the noodles, and it's delicious. The squash makes a surprisingly good textural substitute, in addition to tasting good and being more nutritious. My squash-avoiding seven-year-old scarfed it down not realizing what he was eating, and my skeptical husband admitted to being wholly won over.

Like most lasagna recipes, this is a bit of a project, best saved for a weekend. The squash slicing is easiest with a mandolin if you have one. Use good local ricotta if you can find it; I got a luscious hand dipped whole milk version from Maplebrook Farm (Vermont) at Green Fields Market.

4 medium summer squash or zucchinis (nice and straight if possible)
16 ounces ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 large egg
1 lb ground beef
4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup chopped fresh basil (optional but good)
12 ounces shredded mozzarella

Start by slicing the squash or zucchini lengthwise to about 1/8-inch thick. Lay the slices out on dish towels and salt lightly on both sides. Let sit for 10 minutes or so, then blot dry with another dish towel. You want to remove some of their excess moisture to improve the texture in the lasagna and keep it from getting to soggy. Optionally, you can then bake the slices in a single layer for about 10 minutes at 400 to partially cook and dry them further; I tried this with some of my squash and found I couldn't tell the difference in the end product, so likely won't bother with it again in the future.

While the squash sits exuding moisture, stir together the ricotta, Parmesan, and egg in a small bowl. Set aside.

Brown the beef in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, salting it as you do so. Add the tomato sauce and fresh basil and set aside.

When the squash is ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 9x13-inch pan.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of squash, placing the slices next to each other as close as possible but not overlapping.

A layer of squash, partway through lasagna assembly
Spread a third of the ricotta mixture over the squash, then top with a third of the mozzarella. Repeat layers in this order (sauce, squash, ricotta, mozzarella) for two more layers. Cover the pan lightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Let sit for several minutes before serving.

Serves about 6.

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