When my editor asked me to consider a summer lasagna, I was intrigued. I mean when I think of lasagna, I picture hearty, cheesy, meaty, heavy – and not summery at all. But then I wondered, could I lighten up lasagna and still have it be just as satisfying? I had to find out.
A restaurant favorite of mine is an eggplant lasagna where extremely thin pieces of fried eggplant replaced the noodles. And while I still dream about that dish (and plan on making it one day), the fried factor, and the idea that it was still layered heavily with meat and a cheese bechamel, it wasn’t exactly lending itself to being the fresh summer lasagna I was tasked to create.
I needed to get more creative. I decided on thin-sliced, fresh (not fried), zucchini slices to replace the pasta, and omitted the meat altogether. This made it more of a side dish in my mind and I served it baked, balsamic chicken. I played around a bit with the texture and temperature of the filling and included all the tips I learned from my experiments below in the notes section.
The aspects of lasagna that you love most are the cheese and tomato sauce, and they are still there. Hopefully, you’ll love this lighter fresher take on the classic. My family loved it, and I loved that it felt healthier than typical lasagna, so it was a win-win all around. Enjoy!
Rolled Zucchini Summer Lasagna
Prep Time: 45 MINS
Makes: 6 AS A SIDE DISH
- 4 ZUCCHINI
- 1 15OZ. CONTAINER RICOTTA CHEESE
- ¾ CUPS SHREDDED PARMESAN CHEESE, DIVIDED
- 1 EGG
- 1 SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH BASIL, CHOPPED
- 1 SMALL HANDFUL OF FRESH PARSLEY, CHOPPED
- SALT AND PEPPER, AS NEEDED
- ½ CUP TOMATO SAUCE
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Slice zucchini as thin as you possibly can. Spread pieces out on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and generously sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 15-20 mins. This will draw out much of the natural moisture within the zucchini and make it both easier to work with as well as less bitter
- While zucchini is “sweating”, mix ricotta, ½ cup of the parmesan cheese, egg, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Refrigerate this mixture for the remaining amount of time that zucchini needs to sit
- Spread tomato sauce across the bottom of the 8×8 dish
- Spoon about 1 TBS of cold cheese mixture onto one end of a zucchini slice and roll the rest of the length of the zucchini, making a circle or a rose shape, with the cheese filling in the middle. Place in sauced-dish, one after another, closely packed in, tight enough to keep the rounds from unraveling, until all of the zucchini pieces and/or cheese mixture is used (see note)
- Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan and bake for 25 mins. Serve warm.
- Using a mandolin to slice zucchini may be the best way to get them cut super thin, if you have one, go for it. Otherwise, a sharp knife and concentration will get you a long way as well
- I used fresh basil and parsley from my garden because that’s what I had. You could also use oregano, thyme, or any other herb you like. I prefer to use fresh herbs in the summer because of their availability but if using dried, simply add a bit more as they are not as potent as the fresh
- I found the colder the cheese mixture the better it held together and was easier to hold its place within the zucchini roll-ups which admittedly got a bit messy. If I were to make it again
- I was left with a few pieces of zucchini, pick out the thinnest sliced ones to use, leaving the thicker ones for leftovers as they are harder to roll/keep rolled
- Some of the pieces seemed to roll nicer and neater than others. I’d say, don’t overstuff with the cheese and each one doesn’t have to be perfect. Once baked they all kind of come together anyway and you can always cover with extra cheese and sauce if it looks just too messy – it’s about the taste after all!