For all those out there that say a vegetarian zucchini lasagna can’t be as good as one made from meat, you’re wrong. So wrong.
Once you have a good lasagna recipe under your belt, you know you’re getting somewhere in the culinary world. It’s important to put a little time to the side for a good lasagne – and one that doesn’t include meat is great to have in your arsenal. There are so many reasons for not eating meat – see here for a stark reminder.
I used to eat a lot of meat, and a lot of lasagna. And so I now have one thing to say – bollocks to the veggie haters, this is the best lasagna ever. Best. Lasagna. Ever.
Don’t believe me? That’s fine, taste is subjective anyway. But make your decision after you’ve tried it.
I will agree that lasagna needs a certain type of ‘meaty’ flavour, after all it was originally a meat dish. But that’s easily possible thanks to spelt grains or freekeh (very easy to find), which take on an amazing, smoky, deep flavour when cooked in stock. The pleasingly-chewy texture feels like the consistency of meat too, and is more than a replacement – it’s even better 😉
Health Benefits – Vegetarian Zucchini Lasagna
As if this dish couldn’t get any better – it can. Although no lasagne will ever be the healthiest meal in the world, it has a lot going for it through the spelt and the veg (spelt is a great source of both fibre and protein) – and we have a cheeky trick to massively reduce the calories and carbs involved.
We’re already big fans of swapping out pasta for zucchini (I’m looking at you zoodles!), and the same can be done here if wanted. You simply slice a zucchini up nice and thin (I use one of these, it’s great), and layer it in the place of pasta sheets. Low carb, low calorie (around just ⅛ of regular pasta!) and much less likely to send you to sleep directly after eating 😉
So what point do I want to prove here? Essentially that amazing meals can all be made meat-free, whether it’s lasagna, chickpea curry, or chili con carne. Try, and see if you feel the same. What have you got to lose?
- 80g (½ cup) spelt grains, ground (usually referred to as ‘cracked’ and/or ‘cracked freekeh’)
- 500ml veggie stock
- 2 medium zucchinis
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion
- Lasagna sheets
- Any other veg you want to use up (a bell pepper, for example)
- 400ml (one can) tomato passata/puree
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 250 bechamel sauce (you can make your own if you like, Gordon Ramsay makes a great one, though you can leave out the extra cheese)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Handful fresh or 1 tbsp dried basil
- 100g cheddar cheese (or equivalent)
- Any other veg that needs using up (this a great way to use up any leftovers, I used cauliflower once and it was spectacular)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- Version 1 - with lasagna sheets
- Fry the spelt in a large pan for around 2-3 minutes on a medium heat (no oil). Watch out it doesn’t burn! Just as it starts to release its aroma and turn brown, add the stock and stir well. Turn the heat off and let the spelt sit for 20 minutes, stirring now and then. If the pan cools down completely, let it simmer on a low heat instead.
- Dice the zucchini, onion and all other veg into tiny pieces.
- After 20 minutes, add the zucchini, onion and any other veg into the spelt, along with the tomato puree and tomato paste. Also add salt, pepper and basil. Taste test, and if the tomato wasn't particularly sweet, add a tsp sugar to offset it. Let it all simmer on a low-medium heat for around 10 mins.
- Prep time next. Add ⅓ of the spelt/veg mix to an oven tray. Layer lasagna sheets over it, and on top of that add ⅓ bechamel sauce, using a spoon to spread it over the sheets . Add the next ⅓ spelt/veg mix, more lasagna sheets and another ⅓ bechamel sauce. Finally add the rest of the veg mix and another layer of bechamel sauce (no more lasagna sheets). On the top layer, sprinkle the grated cheese. Ready! Into the oven for 35 minutes on 200°C/390°F, or until a deep golden brown. Best lasagna ever.
- Version 2:
- In this version you're using zucchini strips to replace the lasagna sheets (lower carb and calories). Make the lasagna as directed above, but only dice one zucchini. Slice the other into thin strips (I use a cheese slicer like this) and put it into an oven dish (you can use the one you're gonna cook the lasagne in to save on washing up. Add a tbsp of olive oil and make sure it's spread evenly over the zucchini slices. While the spelt is simmering pop the slices in the oven for 20 mins, taking them out when you add the rest of the veg to the spelt (you need to let them cool down for a few minutes).
- When you're ready, layer out the lasagna as directed above, but simply replace the lasagna sheets with zucchini slices. Easy!
- The most awesome lasagna ever is ready.