Give your comfort food a boost of vegetables with this vegetarian, low-carb lasagna. Switch out the plain noodles in your pan with zucchini paired with a mushroom Bolognese for a hearty dish your family is sure to love.
Homemade lasagna can be a lot of work. Preparing the filling, slicing vegetables, layering, and baking. But the result is totally worth it! Lots of gooey mozzarella, hearty mushroom Bolognese, and creamy béchamel. All layered with fresh zucchini for a low-carb, vegetarian version of the classic.
While I have made many lasagnas in the past, my recent goals towards eating healthier encouraged me to try something new this time. Since I’ve made chicken lasagnas regularly, I wanted to switch it up with something vegetarian. Then I took it a step further and completely did away with the noodles! And I can absolutely say it worked!
Lately we’ve been trying to add more plant-based meals to our family diet. So when I was deciding on the filling for my vegetarian, low-carb lasagna, I wanted to stay away from just adding more cheese. While I love ricotta and zucchini (check out these tartlets), I wanted to feed my family something that centered more around the vegetables.
So I chose a Bolognese. Because, not just is it the classic lasagna, it’s so easy to replace the ground meat with mushrooms. You still get that rich, hearty flavor and protein, but none of the fat! Pair it with a bit of bechamel sauce and mozzarella and no one misses the meat.
Health benefits of zucchini
Zucchini and other kinds of summer squash are a great choice for those trying to eat healthier. They are very low in calories and carbohydrates, but high in nutrients and fiber. Zucchini contains lots of vitamins A and C, plus potassium and folate – all things that are linked with heart health.
If treated properly, you can turn zucchini into all kinds of meals. I know a lot of people have been replacing their noodles with spiralized zucchini (or of course, slices for lasagna), but you can also stuff it and roast it, or even eat it raw in salads. And while zucchini does have a lovely flavor, it is not so strong that you can’t pair it with plenty of other dishes.
How to speed up your vegetable prep
If you have ever looked at a recipe and thought “that’s a lot of vegetable chopping”, you might want to invest in a kitchen mandolin. I love mine. It makes it so easy to get even, thin vegetable slices.
I particularly use it when making salads. Thinly slicing cucumber and radish for a cucumber salad, or shaving the fennel to a perfect thickness for a fennel apple salad – it’s great. You can even cut up an onion into perfect pieces for caramelizing.
As a bonus, it doesn’t take up a lot of space like so many specialized kitchen tools do. A mandolin can make your life so much easier – especially if you don’t have knife skills!
Using a mandolin certainly makes the assembly of this lasagna so much easier. So easy in fact, that you might add it to your regular meal rotation. Because, while this recipe still has plenty of delicious cheese, it is also packed with nutritious vegetables for a healthy meal.
Vegetarian Zucchini Lasagna with Mushroom Bolognese
For the mushroom bolognese:
- 3 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 lb (450g) button mushrooms finely chopped
- 2 medium onions finely diced
- 2 medium celery stalks finely diced
- 2 medium carrots finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2x 14.5 oz cans (2x 400g cans) diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp black pepper or to taste
For the bechamel sauce:
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
For the assembly:
- 2 medium zucchini
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- parsley for topping, optional
The mushroom bolognese:
- In a large pan, over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until softened and all the moisture has disappeared (about 6-8 minutes). Transfer the mushrooms to the plate and set aside.
- In the same pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
- Return the mushrooms to the pan. Stir in the canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
The bechamel sauce:
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes until smooth (but don’t let it brown).
- Gradually stir in the milk. Add the nutmeg and salt, then stir over low heat for about 3-4 minutes, until thickened.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Use a mandolin to slice zucchini lengthwise into thin sheets, about 1/8 inch (0.3cm) thick.
- Spread half of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of zucchini slices. Spread half of the mushroom Bolognese sauce. Top with another layer of zucchini slices.
- Top with half of the shredded mozzarella followed by the rest of the mushroom Bolognese. Arrange a last layer of zucchini slices topped with the rest of the bechamel sauce. Finally, sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.
- Bake 40 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired.