Our backyard is slowly coming together this summer!
We’ve been in our current home 5 years next month – woah, actually this month, still can’t believe it’s June – and each summer we make a little more progress in making our outdoor space work for us. The lush backyard with a two-tiered pond, sunken hot tub, herb garden, mature trees, and private fence completely sold us on the house in 2013 (well, that and the fact that I was 8 months pregnant with Lincoln and we’d already sold our home!) But, you know, time passes and ponds leak, hot tubs get chewed up by mice, a woodchuck turns your herb garden into a playground, trees need trimmed, and fences needs replaced.
Homeownership, man – it’s always something, isn’t it?
Anyway, after this summer we should finally be at a place where our backyard has become a magical, most importantly manageable place to enjoy without looking around and mentally tallying all the projects that need to get done, and ooo I can hardly wait. Especially if it means we can enjoy more summery dinners like Zucchini Noodle Caprese Lasagna al fresco!
So yeah, our woodchuck friend decided to dig a tunnel straight through herb hill last summer (I know, I KNOW we just need to live trap him but both Ben and I are…reluctant, ha! What can I say, while he’s “friendly” (ie runs like hell every time we come into contact with each other,) he’s also ENORMOUS. Anyway, I’ve filled in the hole about 20 times and he keeps digging it, so I moved the basil plants that used to be located there into pots on the other side of the deck, and they’re doing swimmingly! I don’t know about you but it’s hard for me to physically cut and use the fresh herbs I grow. I just think of all the waterings and days of patience it took to grow them – just to snip the leaves and use them? Madness!
Thankfully, I bit the bullet and used this year’s first batch of fresh, homegrown basil in this light and luscious, low-carb, gluten-free lasagna that’s perfect for summer.
This recipe is a riff on my Caprese Lasagna – one of the most popular recipes on IGE every summer since I published it back in 2012 – but I replaced pasta noodles with zucchini noodles to make it even more summery, and low-carb too. Layers of homemade white sauce, zucchini strip “noodles”, and browned Italian sausage join the classic caprese combo of fresh basil, tomato, and mozzarella cheese in this intensely flavored dish. Oh my gosh this lasagna is MAGIC.
If you ever tried making a zucchini noodle lasagna then you know there’s a tendency for the dish to turn into a watery nightmare, but I’ve got two tricks to ensure thick and cheesy, no-noodle success. One is to salt then bake the zucchini noodles and the other is to place the tomato slices in a colander to drain – all before assembling the lasagna. While nearly no zucchini noodle lasagna will slice up like a traditional noodle lasagna, if you follow these two steps, you’ll be set.
I’ll also be the first to tell you that making a zucchini noodle lasagna is a labor of love. While the lasagna reheats really well, making it great for quick lunches or dinners, you’ll want to tuck aside a weekend afternoon to actually prep the zucchini noodles, make the white sauce, brown the sausage, pick the basil, and slice the tomatoes. Promise you it’s so worth it, and I also included a couple time saving tips in the recipe card.
Enough talking – let’s feast!
Start by slicing 3 medium-sized zucchini into 1/8″ thick slices. I’ve owned this OXO Mandoline for legit a decade – it’s such a workhorse. Place the slices on cooling racks set atop 2 half sheet pans then lightly sprinkle with salt and let sit for 15 minutes. The salt will draw out a ton of moisture from the zucchini, which keeps the lasagna from becoming watery.
After 15 minutes, use paper towels or a kitchen towel to blot or wipe the moisture away. Bake the zucchini for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the slices are dry but not browning, then set aside.
NOTE: do not place the zucchini directly onto baking sheets or even baking sheets lined with foil or they’ll stick while baking.
While the zucchini is baking, brown 1lb Italian sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain then set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium then carefully wipe the skillet out with paper towels and melt 3 Tablespoons butter inside. Add 2 cloves pressed or minced garlic then saute until very fragrant and golden brown, 1 minute. Sprinkle in 3 Tablespoons gluten-free flour (could use all-purpose flour but dish will not be GF,) then cook while whisking for 1 minute.
Add splashes of 1-1/2 cups chicken broth while whisking to create a smooth sauce then add 1-1/2 cups whole or 2% milk and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up slightly to bring the mixture to a bubble then turn the heat back down to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick, about 10 minutes. Pour the sauce into a bowl with a lip or spout if you have it, then set aside.
We don’t normally keep cow’s milk in the house so I bought an individual-sized 12oz bottle of milk, which is the perfect amount for this sauce!
Assembly time. Spray a 9×13″ dish with nonstick spray then spread 1/3 cup sauce evenly into the bottom, and then layer in 9-10 zucchini slices.
Top with 1/3 of the Italian sausage, 1/3 of 6-7 thinly sliced Roma tomatoes which have drained in a colander, and 1/3 of 1 packed cup basil that’s been torn or chopped.
Next top with 3/4 cup more sauce and 1/3 of 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese.
Repeat the layers – zucchini noodles, sausage, tomatoes, basil, white sauce, cheese – two more times, for a total of three layers, then cover the baking dish with nonstick sprayed foil and bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
Remove the foil then bake for another 23-25 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown and bubbly. Let the lasagna sit and rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving. Remember, even if the slices aren’t perfect – the dish will still be delicious! I hope you LOVE this low-carb, summery, gluten-free twist on classic lasagna! Enjoy!
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Zucchini Noodle Caprese Lasagna
Calling all low-carb lasagna lovers! Zucchini Noodle Caprese Lasagna is a light and fresh, low-carb, gluten-free lasagna recipe that's packed with flavor. You won't miss the noodles!
- 3 medium-sized zucchini
- 1lb mild Italian sausage
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 3 Tablespoons gluten-free flour OR all-purpose flour (dish will not be GF if using AP flour)
- 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1-1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
- 6-7 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced then placed inside a colander to drain
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped into pieces
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a mandoline, slice zucchini 1/8” thick (a little thicker is fine if you're hand-slicing) then arrange slices on cooling racks set atop two half sheet pans. Lightly salt slices then let sit for 15 minutes to draw out moisture from the zucchini. After 15 minutes, use paper towels or a kitchen towel to wipe or blot the excess moisture away. Bake zucchini for 10-12 minutes or until the slices appear dry but aren’t turning brown. Set aside then turn heat up to 375 degrees. NOTE: do not place zucchini slices directly on the baking sheet, or even on foil, as they will stick after baking.
- Meanwhile, brown sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat then drain and set aside. Carefully wipe out skillet with paper towels then let cool off the heat for a few minutes.
- Turn heat down to medium then return skillet back to heat and melt butter inside. Add garlic then saute until light golden brown and very fragrant, 1 minute. Sprinkle in gluten-free flour then whisk until smooth and cook for one minute. Add splashes of chicken broth while whisking to create a smooth sauce. Once sauce is smooth, add remaining broth and milk then season with salt and pepper. Turn heat up just a touch to bring the sauce to a bubble then turn heat down to medium and simmer until thick and bubbly, 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into a bowl (with a lip/spout if you have it) then set aside.
- Spray a 9x13” baking dish with nonstick spray then spread 1/3 cup sauce in the bottom. Layer in 9-10 zucchini slices then top with 1/3 of the cooked sausage, 1/3 of the tomatoes, 1/3 of basil, 3/4 cup sauce, and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers two more times for a total of three layers. Cover lasagna with nonstick-sprayed foil then bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Carefully remove foil then bake for 23-25 more minutes or until cheese is golden brown on top. Let lasagna sit and cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Zucchini noodle lasagna method from Epicurious.com.
- Slice zucchini a day ahead of time (don't salt or bake) then store in a gallon ziplock bag in the fridge.
- Make white sauce a day ahead of time. Warm in the microwave before using to ensure it's pourable and not too thick.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.