Friday, September 19, 2014

Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce (Gluten-Free)

Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce) found on
Grilled Zucchin Slices made into Lasagna for a low-carb and gluten-free treat!

(For Phase One Fridays I feature Phase One Recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites.  Phase One Recipes are also Low-Carb and Gluten-Free.  I love this method of making lasagna with thick slices of barely-grilled zucchini replacing the noodles, and this is a favorite zucchini dish I look forward to every fall.  This post was updated with better photos and instructions in September 2014.)

This recipe is for vegetable gardeners in the northern hemisphere who might be wondering how to use those huge zucchinis that suddenly seem to appear overnight when the garden is winding down. For years I've been making "lasagna" using zucchini in place of the lasagna noodles, and this is one of my favorite uses for those monster zucchinis that are inevitable if you have a garden.  Now that I am temporarily without a garden, I buy giant zucchini at the farmers market to make this!

Grilling the zucchini removes some of the liquid that might otherwise make the lasagna too watery, and if you don't have an outdoor grill you could certainly do this on a stove-top grill pan. Of course, using zucchini instead of pasta makes a version of lasagna that's low-carb, gluten-free, and South Beach Diet friendly, (and could easily be vegetarian without the sausage in the sauce) but it's delicious as well!

process photos for Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce) found on
You can use round slices if your zucchini isn't that straight, but I prefer lengthwise slices about 5/8 inch thick.  Brush the zucchini slices on both sides with olive oil, adding a sprinkle of Italian Herb Blend if you'd like.  Grill on the first side until you have nice grill marks, about 3-4 minutes.  Then turn and cook a few minutes on the second side, until the zucchini is partially cooked but not completely soft.

process photos for Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce) found on
While I was cooking the zucchini I simmered my Sausage and Basil Marinara Sauce so it would be really thick.  (If you don't want to make sauce from scratch, see the recipe below for an alternate.  Spread the cooked zucchini out on a large cutting board and use a paper towel to press down and remove as much liquid as you can.  Beat the eggs and then mix in the cottage cheese.  (Don't skip the eggs; they help hold this together.)

process photos for Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce) found on
Spray the dish with olive oil or non-stick spray and then make a layer of the grilled zucchini. Cover that with half the sauce, about 1 1/2 cups of the thick sauce.  Then make a layer with half the cottage cheese mixture, followed by a layer with half the cheese.  (I used a low-fat Mozzarella blend from Costco that has a little bit of low-fat cheddar.)

process photos for Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce) found on
Repeat to make another layer each of grilled zucchini, sauce, cottage cheese-egg mixture, and  cheese.  Bake at 400F/200C for 30-40 minutes, or until the lasagna is bubbling and the top is starting to brown.  I baked mine uncovered, but you can cover with foil if it starts to look too brown.  This will be juicier than regular lasagna, so let it sit at least 10-15 minutes before cutting.

original photo for Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce) found on
And lasagna is definitely not that photogenic, but I hope I have improved on the original photo from 2008 when I first posted this recipe.

Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce) found on
Grilled Zucchini Low-Carb Lasagna (with Italian Sausage, Tomato, and Basil Sauce)
(Makes about 8 servings, recipe created by Kalyn.)

It's important to use a dish that's fairly deep for this recipe.  The first time I made this I used a dish that was 9" x 11" and 3" deep.  This time I used my new lasagna pan that was 12.5" x 10" and 3" deep, which worked a lot better.  I would use the larger amounts of cottage cheese and egg for if you have a deep pan like this.)

2-4 large zucchini, cut into lengthwise or round slices about 5/8 inch thick (enough zucchini slices to make two layers, be careful not to cut too thin)
olive oil, for brushing lasagna slices
Italian Herb Blend, for sprinkling zucchini before grilling (optional)
4 cups Sausage and Basil Marinara Sauce, reduced to make 3 cups. (See below for an option if you don't have homemade sauce.)
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese (or use 1 1/2 cups for smaller dish size)
4 eggs (or use 3 eggs for smaller dish size)
2 cups grated low-fat Mozzarella cheese
1 cup coarsely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
(or use about 3 cups of any type of white cheese that melts well)

Sauce Ingredients if You Don't Have Homemade Sauce:
1 T olive oil
1 pkg. (19.5 oz.) hot or mild turkey Italian Sausage links
24 oz. jar tomato-basil sauce (choose the lowest sugar sauce you can find)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (optional, but use if available)

If you don't have homemade sauce,  heat one tablespoon olive oil in frying pan with high sides.  Squeeze the turkey Italian sausage out of the links, and cook until it's nicely browned, breaking apart with a turner or potato masher as it cooks.  (Most turkey sausage will release some liquid; just cook until that evaporates.)  When the sausage is brown, add the jar of sauce and rinse out the jar with about 1/2 cup water.  Simmer until the sauce mixture is reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes, then stir in the chopped fresh basil if using.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Brush grill or stove-top grill pan with olive oil or spray with grill spray and preheat to high heat. (You can only hold your hand there for a few seconds at that heat.) While grill heats, cut zucchini into slices about 5/8 inch thick. Brush both sides of zucchini lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian Herb Blend if using.  Grill zucchini slices until they're lightly browned on both sides, but not fully cooked, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the zucchini slices to a cutting board and press lightly with a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture.  (Put zucchini between two pieces of paper towel if it seems especially juicy.)

Beat eggs in small bowl, then stir in cottage cheese.  (If using homemade sauce, be sure it has reduced to 3 cups.)

Spray heavy ceramic or glass lasagna dish with non-stick spray or olive oil.  Then make a layer of lasagna slices, a layer with half the sauce, a layer with half the cottage cheese-egg mixture, and a layer with half the cheese. Top with second layer of grilled lasagna slices, sauce, cottage cheese-egg mixture, and remaining cheese.

Bake 30-40 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned on top and mixture is slightly bubbling. (I hate to cover it with foil because the cheese always sticks to the foil, but you can cover it for part of the time if you don't want the top quite so brown.) Let sit at least 10-15 minutes before cutting, then cut into pieces and serve hot.  (This will be a little juicier than regular lasagna, letting it sit for a few minutes will help with that.)

This keeps very well in the fridge for several days and it might even be better re-heated, because some of the juice absorbs into the zucchini when it's refrigerated!  I would not recommend freezing.

Click Here for Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
For anyone who's following the South Beach Diet, this dish with zucchini instead of pasta and sauce made with turkey Italian Sausage is a much better choice than regular lasagna. However, this does have a fairly generous amount of cheese, so even though this would be okay for any phase of the diet, it's probably a "once in a while" treat for Phase One.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More "Use Up the Zucchini" Ideas from Kalyn:
Zucchini-Crust Vegetarian Pizza Margherita
Monster Zucchini and Basil Strata
Grilled Zucchini Pizza Slices
Meat, Tomato, and Mozzarella Stuffed Zuchini Cups
50 Amazing Zucchini Recipes for Sneak Some Zucchini on to Your Neighbor's Porch Day

More Versions of Lasagna Using Zucchini or Eggplant to Replace Noodles:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Summer Squash "Lasagna" Bake from This Mama Cooks
Zucchini and Turkey Lasagna from A Good Appetite
Grilled Eggplant Lasagna from Andrea's Recipes
Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.

Blogger Disclosures:
Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

This recipe was first posted for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by the talented Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once .

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MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Not sure if I should be upset with my mind or with you. If I've seen this here before then we can blame my sieve like brain. If you've just been keeping this underwraps, then I'll blame you. Zucchini becomes pasta - radically wonderful!!
Beautiful lasagna serving Kalyn.

Kalyn said...

Tanna, I think you will have to blame me! When I made this recently I was sure I'd already posted the recipe, but nope, it wasn't there. So now the idea is officially recorded on the blog.

Peter M said...

Very creative and no flavour is compromised here!

Maria said...

Great looking lasagna! I love the use of zucchini!
And we are in love with white eggplant now. Thanks again!

Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer said...

WOW now that is my kind of lasagna - Love that you use Zucchini as the super star instead of the high carb counterpart. Very creative and what a wonderful blend of flavors.

Carolyn at said...

Back some years ago when the idea was first circulated to use zucchini instead of pasta, I tried a recipe or two and was very disappointed. But I think it was the SAUCE I was disappointed in. Now that just the hint of Autumn is in the air I am ready to do more of this kind of cooking. Kalyn - have you frozen this? Does the zucchini become watery when you do? Thanks for the reminder to make this casserole, and I'll definitely use your method - particularly of grilling the zucchini (more flavor). Thanks!

Kalyn said...

Peter, it really is delicious. Even the parents gave it a thumbs up.

Maria, thanks. Glad you're enjoying the eggplant.

Cathy, it's a great substitute for noodles.

Carolyn, you need a rather thick sauce or it will be watery. I think grilling the zucchini adds a lot. I have frozen it, and it's definitely better freshly made but not too bad frozen as long as you use a thick sauce and grill first.

Mallika said...

Very clever idea! I think this is going to feature on our dinner table soon.

Nevis said...

Wow, that looks delicious!

AND...I gave you an award! Check out my site.

Kitt said...

What a great idea! I'm kicking myself for not planting zukes this year.

The Olson's: said...

This sounds good! My husband is working on losing weight so he's eating a lower carb diet. I'm always on the lookout for new recipes. Thanks for sharing this simple & creative idea! I'll try it the next time I get a zucchini.
~ Leanne

Andrea said...

Hey, we're channeling each other! I did it with grilled eggplant. Should have thought of zucchini, too. Yours looks good! :-)

Paula said...

Ooooh, a lovely gluten free lasagna dish. I love how cheesy it is and the step of grilling zucchini just makes it all the better. YUM!

Karina Allrich said...

This is a naturally gluten-free lasagna alternative- what a fab idea, Kalyn! And it sounds rich without being heavy.

alexandra's kitchen said...

this sounds amazing. I just found an Italian deli in my town that makes the most delicious hot Italian sausage, and I still can't get enough of the summer's zucchini. i might have to set aside time this weekend to make this.

JustSmartLiving said...

That's a great idea. Never heard of it, but definitely worth a try. It really does look great.

Johanna said...

love this idea - now I just wish I had a giant zucchini to need to use up!

sra said...

Kalyn, this is a wonderful substitution - I'm always looking for stuff that replaces rice and flour.

veron said...

What a grand idea....and long as there's italian sausage...I'm all over this!

Anonymous said...

Wow...this looks so good..can't wait to try this. Thanks, eileen

Gita's Kitchen said...

Hi Kalyn,
THe lasagna looks delicious. A good option for diabetics too. I'll will try this and let you know.

Marcella said...

Wow, that looks delicious! I have frequently made a similar dish using a combination of eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, plus spinach if I can fit it in there, but I never thought of adding cottage cheese and eggs. I may have to try your version this weekend!

Nicole said...

This sounds so great Kalyn! I have houseguests coming this weekend so I was already thinking about preparing some type of lasagna. This just makes me want to make it even more!

Prudy said...

What a gorgeous and delicious use of the prolific veggie!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I love the fact that you've replaced the noodles with grilled zucchini - what a great idea, and another reason to make lasagna!

Alisa said...

Great recipe Kalyn.Mmmm...i definitely wanna try this!

Anonymous said...

Looks great as usual --the title mentions sausage, but where's the amount of sausage and its placement in the stack?

Kalyn said...

Rhapsody, the sausage is in the sauce. If you don't use my sauce recipe, just brown the sausage and simmer it in whatever sauce you're using for about 20 minutes when you reduce the sauce.

Dana said...

That looks absolutely delicious! Definitely going to add this to the menu. :)

Natasha said...

Such a brilliant idea to make lasagna healthier, and I think, easier to digest. I'm sure this would be a lot lighter than regular lasagna, and still delicious! yummy!

Valentina said...

This is fantastic. I am just in love with this recipe. I did recieve some zuchini in my basket and I will most certainly try it. You never cease to inspire me.

white on rice couple said...

This is the post that is going to get me rolling on this marvelous dish! I just love the idea of using the zucchini for the pasta. The flavors you added here with the sausage is great too!

Kalyn said...

Thanks everyone. I'm loving it that people who aren't SB dieters can still appreciate how this dish is so delicious!

Nate-n-Annie said...

I usually use large globe eggplant slices as the "noodles" and diced zucchini in the sauce. I don't see why we couldn't switch that around!

BeckStein said...

Thanks for reposting...I've done it before with grilled eggplant (or roasted slices) before, but never zucchini. I'll have to give this a try seeing as how my current beau is not an eggplant fan, but he loves my cooking and eating SB with me. Yay, so excited to try!

Nate-n-Annie said...

la-la-la-la, lasagna! I notice you cut the zukes over half an inch thick. And those squash are pretty big around, too! How big were the original squash anyway? Must've been huge!

Kalyn said...

The zucchini I used here was huge, about 18 inches long. This is a good way to use the big ones, as long as they don't get so big that they're filled with huge seeds.

Shea Goldstein said...

I just wanted to tell you I made this last night and I still can't believe how wonderful it was. I had it for breakfast! Thanks for such wonderful recipes.

Kalyn said...

Shea, so glad you liked it. Thanks for letting me know.

Ethereal said...

Thanks Kalyn - this was really good - I've been missing pasta since being on SBD and this really hit the spot


~la petite chef~ said...

Thanks for the shout-out! You're variation sounds delicious! YUM! I'm definitely grilling the zuc next time!
la petite chef
ps Another great zucchini and easy recipe are Baked Zucchini Sticks

Scott Lepsch said...

I made this last night with some leftover, thick meat-sauce. I had never had a zucchini lasagna before, and I was really impressed! The only downside was how watery the bottom was - it didn't ruin the taste, but it is visually unappealing.

I couldn't grill the zucchini because of the artic weather here in MN, so I browned them in a pan instead. Do you think that was why it was so watery, or is there another secret that I am missing?

Kalyn said...

Scott, glad you liked it. I do think that the zucchini will never absorb the liquid the way noodle do, but I did choose to grill it because grilling dries up the zucchini. Maybe try taking a paper towel after you cook the zucchini and gently press on it to absorb some of the moisture. A stovetop grill pan might be a good option too.

~la petite chef~ said...

Hi Kalyn!
Thanks for the Link!!
You're zuc lasagna looks AMAZING!! yum yum yum!! :)
~la petite chef~

Rebecca said...


We have made this recipe a few times over the past couple years and it always turns out watery. We grill it everytime, but the zucchini don't seem to dry out. Could it be the size of the zucchini that make the difference? We only find small ones in the grocery store, and the ones in your pictures look the size of eggplant.


Kalyn said...

Hi Rebecca,
I don't think it's the small zucchini that's the problem. There are a couple of things you can try. You can salt the zucchini and let it draw out the water, then blog it off with a paper towel. (I think that's rather a pain though.) What I might try is grilling the zucchini, then putting it between two layers of paper towel and gently pressing so it absorbs some of the moisture in the zucchini. You might also try cooking down the sauce a little so it's a bit thicker.

Rebecca K. said...

How would I cook it with slicing the zucchini lengthwise, like flat noodles, without it getting overcooked?

Kalyn Denny said...

Rebecca, slicing it the other way would not change the cooking procedure; I would just grill the slices. If you don't have an outdoor grill, you could use a grill pan with ridges.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Brilliant! I've been making a version of this since you first posted it, and it remains a favorite, especially during "giant zucchini" season.

The Girl With the Pan Face said...

So good! I do it with eggplant instead of zucchini.

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Now I want lasagna and your healthy version for sure, Kalyn! I picked up zucchini at the store yesterday, but not large ones. I still think I could make them work though, using a smaller baking dish and making a smaller amount for the two of us. It's been a good while since I've made lasagna and it's one of hubby's favorites. I don't think he'll mind the zucchini lasagna noodles at all. ;-)


Kalyn Denny said...

Thanks Lydia! Really love this for a low-carb treat.

I think eggplant as the "noodles" sounds great!

Shirley, hope you guys enjoy it!

Unknown said...

I would love to make this, but my son is allergic to eggs. Any suggestions?

Kalyn Denny said...

It might work without the egg, but the layers just won't stay together quite as well. I think it would be worth a try!

Katherine said...

Thanks for re-posting this. It clarified some things for me. However, one question. Why cottage cheese and not ricotta? Would it change anything if I use ricotta?

Kalyn Denny said...

Katherine, I'm glad the improved instructions are helpful. Yes, you could use ricotta but I would still mix the eggs into it because they really help hold this together.

Elizabeth said...

looks great! and healthier with zucchini that oasta!

Kalyn Denny said...

Thanks Elizabeth!

Apu said...

Amazing! Loving it!

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