Zucchini Lasagna Bolognese with Spicy Basil Breadcrumbs.
Okay this zucchini lasagna bolognese may be my favorite dish of the entire summer.
And that sure is saying something. Right?!
I can’t even TELL you how obsessed we are with this meal. It was one of those that I couldn’t get out of my head. Honestly, I was inspired a few weeks ago by our August book club pick – the School of Essential Ingredients – where she talks about a bolognese. And if you have my book The Pretty Dish, you know it holds our all-time favorite bolognese recipe.
I don’t always love replacing noodles with zucchini. And I’m not saying this should replace your favorite lasagna. I’m saying… make this in addition to it. Let this be your summer lasagna. It is so fantastic and I need you to experience it!
It’s cheesy. Bubbly. Saucy. Comforting. Absolutely delicious. It is all the things!
Let me tell you about the zucchini lasagna bolognese layers:
We have zucchini, obviously.
We have a turkey bolognese, which is a little riff on my favorite one in second cookbook, and it uses a jarred sauce, but it is still loaded with flavor. It’s very semi-homemade, if you will.
Then, there’s the cheesy ricotta layer.
Lots of grated cheese.
In addition to our slightly high-maintenance lasagna, we’re adding in an extra step. I promise it’s worth it. While the lasagna is in the oven, making some spicy basil breadcrumbs.
Yes, spicy basil breadcrumbs!!
Making these separate allows them to add extra crunch to the top of the dish. They don’t melt into the cheese layer. Instead, they blanket the top, adding excellent crispy crunch. And flavor, of course.
Doesn’t that all sound insane!?
So here’s the kicker.
The dish is not difficult to make. But it does require a few steps and there are two important things you MUST do if you want this to work.
First, you must must must sweat out the zucchini before making this. So slice your zucchini, sprinkle it with salt, and then let it go for at least 30 minutes. Make the bolognese, make the ricotta, do laundry, whatever. Just let it sit and sweat out the water so your dish isn’t liquidy!
Next, you also must let it sit for at least 30 minutes (or more) before slicing into it. Just like a regular lasagna. You have to let this settle once it finishes baking. Then (as you can see in the pictures below!), it will slice nicely and not be a watery mess.
Those two things are KEY to perfect zucchini lasagna. Unfortunately, they do add some time to this dish. It’s mostly passive time, so don’t freak out when you see how long this takes! I promise you it’s worth it.
I already have an incredible lasagna bolognese recipe here on the blog, but I’m telling you… this one… it’s is SPECIAL.
Hello dinner tonight!
Zucchini Lasagna Bolognese
- 4 to 5 medium-sized zucchini squash
- kosher salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small sweet onion, diced
- 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 24 ounce jar marinara sauce
- ¼ cup half and half
- ¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- 16 ounces freshly grated mozzarella or provolone cheese
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
- parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
- fresh basil, for topping
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Cut the zucchini into thin slices, about ⅛ inch. I find this works best with a knife, as I actually like the slices about ⅛ inch thick. If you’d like thinner slices, use a mandolin or vegetable peeler. You are going to need 4 layers of slices, and with the 9x13 inch dish, I usually need approximately 7 slices across for each layer. So in totally, roughly 28 to 32 slices.
Place the zucchini in a single layer on paper towels or kitchen towels. Sprinkle it all over with salt. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, but even up to 60 minutes. This will remove the water so the lasagna isn’t watery. While the zucchini sweats, make the bolognese.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-low heat. Stir in the onions, mushrooms and garlic with a pinch big of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring often, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add in the ground turkey. Cook until browned, stirring and breaking apart the meat, about 5 to 6 minutes. Once browned, stir in the tomato paste, basil, oregano and pepper flakes.
Add in the marinara sauce. Stir in the half and half and the parmesan cheese. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it! This will differ depending on the brand of sauce you use. Let this sit over low heat, stirring occasionally, while you make the ricotta mixture.
In a bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan and basil until combined.
Now it’s time to make the lasagna! Press towels over the zucchini very well to remove all the liquid. Place a few spoonfuls of the bolognese sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer one row of zucchini slices in a single layer.
Spoon some of the bolognese all over the zucchini slices. Take a third of the ricotta mixture and dollop it all over the meat, using your spoon to spread it out if you’d like. Sprinkle on a few handfuls of the grated mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of the zucchini slices.
Repeat what you just did. Add the bolognese sauce, a third of the ricotta mixture, then a sprinkle of cheese. Add another layer of zucchini slices. Add more bolognese sauce, the remaining ricotta mixture, and a sprinkle of cheese. Top with the final layer of zucchini slices.
For the final layer, add the bolognese sauce. Top with the fresh mozzarella slices. Add any remaining grated cheese. Bake the lasagna for 35 to 40 minutes.
Once finished, let it set up for another 30 to 45 minutes. I know this is difficult, but just like with regular lasagna, it will cut so much nicer if it sits and settles. This will NOT slice into perfect layered slices, but if you let it sit before slicing, it will slice nicely and shouldn’t be a watery mess!
Before slicing, top with the basil breadcrumbs, extra parmesan and fresh basil. Devour!!
While the lasagna is baking, make the breadcrumbs. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once melted, stir in the breadcrumbs, basil and pepper flakes. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing, until browned and crispy. Sprinkle on the lasagna when it comes out of the oven.
I mean, the CHEESE!