Making healthy meals with ground beef can be as simple as changing a few details of the most comforting classic dishes. This low carb lasagna will surely satisfy because it delivers the delicious flavors and textures without the effects of combining starch (pasta) with fat, which commonly leads to over-eating. Your friends and family will surely thank you and make this a repeat request!
Pasta is delicious, but the relatively low nutritional value combined with the results of eating a starchy meal (basically sugar) leads to over eating. If you want to learn more about cooking healthy meals with ground beef similar to this approach, check out our blog post on the topic.
Replacing starches with vegetables is easy, but there are a couple tricks which will help you get the best result. Vegetables typically contain a lot of water. You don't want that water diluting the flavor and texture of your dish. Salting, pressing, and removing as much water from the vegetables before hand is the best way to reduce this unwanted result. Follow this recipe to see exactly how that works.
- Prep time: 30 Minutes
- Cook time: Around 45 Minutes
May we suggest:
- A glass baking dish for the lasagna (and similar dish will work), roughly 8 x 16 inches
- A mandolin for slicing the vegetables thin and evenly
- For the meat sauce:
- 2 lb Ground beef (or 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb ground pork)
- 1 Onion, small dice
- 8 Cloves garlic, small dice
- 2 Cups of diced mushrooms (we used shiitake)
- 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
- 1 small can tomato sauce (8 oz)
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine (or white wine)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- For the lasagna
- 2 large zucchini
- 2 large yellow squash
- 1 container ricotta cheese (15 oz)
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup shredded parmesan
- Olive oil for cooking
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
Step 1: Make the meat sauce. Nailing the meat sauce is important. You can throw everything together and cook it until well incorporated if you're short on time, or follow these steps to maximize flavor.
- Start with combining your 2 pounds ground meat into one big meat ball. Heat a large pot over medium heat until really hot, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, and begin searing/browning all sides of the big meatball (flip to a different side every couple minutes). Once browned, use a spatula to divide in half and brown the insides. Repeat again, and finally, break it up until small chunks and continue breaking it up until everything is just cooked through. You don't want to leave the meat in big chunks, so make sure to really break it up into the smallest bits possible. This process helps get the most flavor from that nice browning process (the Maillard reaction). Now season the meat liberally with salt, stir once more, and remove from the pot with a slotted spoon (leave all the good fat and flavor in the pot for the next step).
- In the leftover drippings over medium heat, add the onion and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, continue stirring for another two minutes. If the pot seems on the drier side, try draining some of the drippings from the meat you've set aside back into the pot (be careful). Or add another tablespoon of olive oil. Deglaze the pot by adding the red wine, stirring and scraping the pot to get all that good flavor incorporated into the sauce. Simmer the wine and vegetables for another couple of minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Using three different types of tomatoes will add a lot of depth to the flavor. Once the sauce is simmering, add the ground beef back to the pot. Stir in the fresh chopped basil and oregano. Season with a healthy pinch of salt and taste. Does it need more salt? Add a little more if so! Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
Step 2: Prepare the vegetables. You can start this process while you are cooking the meat sauce.
- Slice the zucchini and squash on a mandolin at a little less than a quarter inch thickness to get even, thin strips of vegetables. Or do what I did since I couldn't find our mandolin and cut them carefully by hand. It's definitely worth using the mandolin because otherwise you will end up with uneven slices being too thick. It's not the end of the world. Do whatever you have to do, even if you don't have a mandolin!
- Lay out the slices on a sheet tray lined with paper towels. Season both sides of the vegetable slices with a good amount of salt (some of it will get removed, so be fairly liberal with the salt). The salt will begin to draw out the water from the vegetables. After about ten minutes or so, take another good layer of paper towels and press it over top of the vegetables to squeeze out as much water as possible.
- Repeat this step until your paper towels are coming out fairly dry. Removing water as much as possible will again result in a better overall flavor and texture!
Step 3: Assemble the lasagna . We will layer the lasagna with each set of ingredients and top it with cheese.
- Start with about half the meat sauce and spread into an even layer.
- Place vegetable slices over top the meat sauce. It's okay if they overlap a little.
- Spoon the half the ricotta cheese over the slices, sprinkle half the shredded mozzarella evenly.
- Repeat with the vegetable slices.
- Spread evenly the second half of the meat sauce over the slices.
- Repeat with the vegetable slices.
- Finish with the remaining cheese plus the parmesan over top the lasagna.
Step 4: Bake the lasagna at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Put the assembled lasagna in the oven, loosely covered with foil. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove foil for the last 15 minutes. If at the end of 45 minutes the cheese does not look browned enough to your liking, you can quickly finish under the broiler to get that nice golden brown cheesy goodness! Remove from the oven and let the lasagna rest for 10 - 15 minutes before serving. It will be incredibly hot and needs to cool slightly for best eating!
FREEZING LASAGNA AND/OR MAKING EXTRA
You might not be able to eat all of this lasagna at once! You could split this recipe in half and use two smaller baking dishes, intending one to go into the freezer for later. You can also make double portions and scale this recipe up as it will not take too much extra effort. Here are tips for freezing a cooked lasagna for an easy meal to pull out of the freezer at a later date.:
- If planning on freezing, line the baking dish with foil on the bottom and sides
- Bake lasagna as directed above and allow to cool completely in the refrigerator overnight
- Remove the lasagna the next day by carefully lifting the foil out of the baking dish
- Wrap top with additional foil and freeze until needed
- To reheat, pull lasagna from the freezer and place back into the baking dish with the foil
- Heat in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the lasagna is bubbly and hot