Zucchini Lasagna (Without the Pasta Sheets)

Zucchini and summer squashes are so versatile, and so various in size, color and shape, that they’re endlessly fun to create with. From pattypan to eight ball-shaped globes of delicate flesh, we’ve come to see a lot more heirloom types of these over the last few years, thanks to farmers who’ve saved their seeds. This recipe can be made with any of them, sliced thinly and arranged in layers to stand in for lasagna sheets — and soak in all the flavors in between.

I was craving a rich, pasta dish when I found my first, plump squashes of the summer, with fresh cheeses and herbs. Zucchini and summer squashes have such a mild flavor that a little richness helps bring them out. When they’re crisp and fresh as the first crop of the season, too, they’re delicious when eaten raw. I went with a preparation that would gently cook the layers of squash just enough to get hot, but retain most of their juice.

a sure sign of summer — squashes

thinly sliced for layering strips

So whether or not you’re looking to cut carbs, these thin sheets of zucchini made a playful replacement for pasta in this light summer lasagna-like dish. I used a small variety of green and yellow squash/zucchini that were roughly the same size. These were all drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt before laying them into the bottom of a small pan.

After the first layer, I added dabs of arugula pesto and spread it across. A classic basil pesto would work here just fine — I’ve had a small container of spicy arugula and pine nut pesto in my freezer from last summer’s rooftop greens.

ricotta and pesto take turns in between

an egg helps bind and stiffen the ricotta once cooked

I’ve had a hankering to use Brooklyn’s finest homemade ricotta, from Salvatore Brooklyn, in something new lately, too. This ricotta is so thick and luscious, made with just whole milk and a splash of lemon juice to activate the curdling, it’s great for making lasagna with, rather than the more liquid, average store-bought variety. To make these layers bind even better, I mixed in an egg to a cupful of the ricotta, and seasoned it a bit with some sea salt.

These layers repeated a couple times, and my “lasagna” was ready to bake. I sprinkled the top with grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano to give it a golden crust.

a yellow-squash layer with arugula pesto

sprinkled with parmesan and ready to bake

Then, like most lasagnas, this one does need a few moments to sit after baking. Slicing it can be tricky, but easily done with a sharp knife (read: do not collapse the whole pile by trying to use a butter knife). With a little basil for garnish on top, it made for an elegant treat to bring to my potluck tonight.

Zucchini Lasagna (without the pasta sheets)
(makes one square, 8″ x 8″ lasagna, or about 6 servings)

3 medium-large zucchinis, yellow squashes or other summer squashes, ends trimmed
8 oz. ricotta
1 egg
about 1/4 cup pesto
about 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
about 1/4 cup grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice zucchini and squashes lengthwise into about 1/8-inch thick slices. You should have at least 20 long pieces for layers. Drizzle all the pieces with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper on each side.

Gently beat the egg and mix in thoroughly with the ricotta. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper.

Lightly oil the bottom of a square casserole dish. Arrange four large squash slices on the bottom. Spread 1/3 of the pesto on top. Arrange another layer of squash pieces, horizontally in relation to the last layer. Spread half the ricotta on top. Add another layer of squash pieces and spread another 1/3 of the pesto. Add another layer of squash pieces and spread the remaining ricotta. Add another layer of squash pieces and spread the remaining pesto. Sound like a broken record.

Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano and bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until top is lightly browned. Let cool for at least five minutes and serve.

Cost Calculator
(for about 6 servings)

3 zucchinis and/or summer squashes (at $2.50/lb): $2.50
8 oz. Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta: $8.00
1/4 cup homemade pesto: $2.00
1 egg: $0.25
1/4 cup grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano: $1.00
olive oil, salt, pepper: $0.50

Total: $14.25

Health Factor

Five brownie points: This dish is a double-edged sword; at once, it gives you plentiful nutrition but also a good dose of saturated fat. As light as it may taste, whole-milk ricotta is on the heavy side. But when you buy a pure, fresh version such as Salvatore Brooklyn’s, it’s free of preservatives or additives, so you’re just getting lots of calcium-rich dairy. Zucchini and summer squash have a diverse range of vitamins and minerals, too — a fact that is underestimated in my opinion — including Vitamin C, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Green Factor

Eight maple leaves: You can celebrate the start of a fresh new season with this late spring-summer transitional dish. While most of the tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, we’ve got squashes and herbs that you can really taste without a red sauce. These squashes were found at Phillips Farm’s stand at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket; the ricotta from the small local business Salvatore Brooklyn, as mentioned; and the pesto herbs as well as egg from my rooftop garden. Too bad olive trees don’t grow up there for the oil.

38 Responses

  1. Nadia

    This is a fabulous idea for summer (and summer squash). It’s reminiscent of a French dish called a Tian de Courgettes, which is more like a casserole. I like that this one holds together like a true lasagna. Nice recipe!

  2. Danielle

    This looks absolutely delicious! What a great gluten-free option for the lasagna lover in all of us! Thanks

  3. Erin

    Fantastic idea! I can’t wait to pop over to the Farmers Market, pick up the ingredients, and make this. I especially love the addition of pesto. Looks and sounds very tasty.

  4. Hanna

    This looks fantastic, I tried a similar approach to aubergine with mozzarella, that was nice too, but this feels more lasagne-like!

  5. Claudia

    Dear Cathy,
    My kids and I Love, Love,Love all your recipes(all the ones that we have tried) I’m having a challenge with my kid’s lunch. Most of the kids at school buy the cafeteria lunches or take their own. A typical lunch for a kid at their school is a sandwich, fruit role-up thing, chips, and some kind of sugary drink. My challenge is that my kids feel out of place with the lunches I prepare them. They’re not confident enough to explain sustainable/organic choices to their peers since they are still in elementary school…Please, Please, Please help with a fun creative lunch!! I’m asking you because your recipes are super easy for me to follow.


  6. Sarah

    I made eggplant lasagna last night… only to discover that I have a mouth allergy to eggplant. Talk about itchy! This zucchini alternative would be fantastic!

  7. Jessica

    This looks absolutely delicious – I can’t wait to try this (probably with part-skim ricotta).

  8. Cathy Erway

    @Claudia: How about give your son a very cool plastic Bento box to portion out different homemade foods in? I think these containers are wickedly fun, and kids seem to just love them. You might have to find one online rather than at your average local grocery store, though…

  9. City Share

    That looks delicious. It would make a great side dish or main dish. I’ll have to keep this in mind when we reach zucchini overload later in the summer.

  10. Georgie

    Wonderful dish! I’m making this for my friend who recently broke her ankle, boo! To make matters a little more interesting her hubby is away on a business trip, while she’s home with four adorable children. I think she will be delighted. Thanks for creating something so drool worthy!

  11. Genarti

    I just made this for my visiting parents, and we all loved it! What a great recipe. I especially loved it because I usually cook with a lot of rice or pasta, but my mom doesn’t like heavily starchy meals, so this was great for everybody.

    I modified it a little, because I don’t like ricotta. Instead, I used a mixture of romano (mixed with egg), shredded mozzarella, and smoked gouda. It worked really well; the different cheeses added a lot of layers, especially the gouda.

    One of my housemates suggested adding sliced tomatoes, too, for a little more acidity. I haven’t tried it that way, but I suspect I’ll make this again, and I might put in more veggie layers when I do.

  12. diana

    This is brilliant! i haven’t tried to make it yet but i can’t wait, it looks delicious!

  13. Colleen

    Aaaah!! I love this idea. I am gluten intolerant AND I love squash. Making this ASAP. Thanks Cathy.

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  15. michelle

    I made this for friends and it was definitely a hit! I got a bunch of different squash varieties and didn’t know what to do with them – this was perfect! I like how the squash has a similar texture to pasta sheets, but is much more interesting when you bit into it. Thanks Cathy!

  16. Brenda

    This looks tasty and fab! I’m starting a vegan-ish lifestyle diet to improve my cholestrol numbers (Engine 2 diet). Anyone have suggestiong for replacing the ricotto and mozzorela cheese?

  17. lucy

    I was a bit suspicious of this; I wasn’t sure how it would hold together. But it turned out great! The flavor was fantastic, and it looked great on the plate. Thanks again for another great recipe!

  18. This look absolutely luscious and healthy. Every once in a while we’ll have a pure veggie night, and this is just the kind of dish that would wholly satisfy. Thank you!


  19. Candace Karu

    I just made tons of pesto and I have a bumper zucchini crop this year, so I can’t wait to try making this delicious dish. Thank you!

  20. Rachel

    1 cup cashews, soaked 6 hours.
    1/2 package soft tofu.
    2T lemon juice (or to taste)
    1/4 tsp smoked sea salt
    1 tsp garlic granules
    salt and pepper to taste

    blend at high speed. voila. vegan ricotta.

  21. […] receiving this lovely item a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try it out with this recipe for Zucchini Lasagna*. And WOW, what an awesome meal.  I used a bit too much pesto, so I […]

  22. Heather

    AWESOME recipe! I used Trombetta squash in place of the zucchini and it was amazing. Thank you so much!

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  25. Amy Jo

    I made this for my family tonight and it was delicious! Thanks for the great recipe!

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  28. Caroline

    Love this ;)))

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  32. Jeanine

    Have you also tried it with eggplant?

  33. Loreen

    I will try this, but i want to be a little traditional and use some homemade red sauce just to top it with… so many variations that can be done, wonderful dish!!!!

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  38. Laureen

    I made this tonight for dinner. Delicious! Can make so many variations of this dish also. Yum!

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