Lightened Up Vegetable Lasagna Casserole

If you want traditional lasagna, this isn’t it. There are plenty of vegetables and cheese included, but no noodles.

Sorry to burst your gluten noodle bubble and all.

Instead of using pasta, I made the crust and base of the lasagna with grated zucchini and carrots, which I baked for about a half hour, until it crisped up and became a big zucchini-carrot-pancake-like noodle in the base of the pan.

I topped the baked vegetable noodle with layers of sour cream, cheese, salsa, more cheese, and baked it until the cheese turned golden, another 35 minutes or so.

MY OTHER RECIPES

The cheesy surface was so pretty that I couldn’t resist sticking a fork into it immediately upon taking the lasagna out of the oven. I didn’t need that skin on the roof of my mouth anyway but that’s what I get for being the queen of rushing things.

The middle layers are full of corn and beans because the grocery store-brand salsa I used was very heavy on the corn and beans. And yes, I used salsa in lasagna, and the corn and beans provided heartiness, chunkiness, and texture. I need texture in everything, which is why I am not really a fan of traditional lasagna. All those smooth noodles, smooth sauce, and smooth cheese just does nothing for me.

To confuse tradition even more, I used sour cream rather than ricotta because I loathe ricotta. The texture is an absolute no-go for me. I don’t mind cottage cheese, once a decade or so, but ricotta is a never-in-my-lifetime cheese, and since Scott doesn’t like it either, sour cream was an easy choice.

And since this isn’t traditional lasagna and anything goes, I used a cheese medley rather that solely using mozzarella. I’m such a cheese rebel.

Skylar has never had traditional lasagna and I’m sure now that whenever someone says they had lasagna, she’s going to think it means a pile of beans, corn, and cheese baked on top of a big carrot-zucchini-pancake-noodle.

She’ll be surprised to learn that most people use noodles in their lasagna. There are worse things than bucking noodle traditions.

We had lots of Clean Plate Club members after this meal, and after the dinners the next two nights, because the recipe makes planned leftovers as casseroles and pans of lasagna typically do.

I reheated the leftovers in the microwave for dinner the next two nights, but you can freeze them in single-serving portions in plastic food storage bags or food storage containers and reheat them as your own homemade frozen TV dinner on those nights where making something from scratch isn’t going to happen.

Look at leftovers or freezer meals as saving you time and saving you money because they help you avoid Dialing For Your Dinner, otherwise known as calling for takeout.

However, the recipe does not make a huge huge pan, just a 9-by-9-inch pan, which is perfect for us. A 9-by-13-inch pan turns into the family turning grumpy because they’ve been eating the same thing over and over, over and over, like the Thanksgiving leftovers that never end. Unless of course I use the freeze-and-stash-for-a-few-months trick on them, and if you want to use that trick, feel free to double the recipe and bake it in a 9-by-13-inch pan.

As it turned out, Scott wouldn’t have minded a huge pan of this. He said it got better each night, which I find is the case with traditional lasagna as the flavors marry as time passes.

He also said he wouldn’t have known there was zucchini or carrots in it, bu he’s also the same man who was convinced I had put chocolate in the Zucchini Banana Bread when there was no chocolate used. Maybe he has a mindblock for zucchini, which is fine by me since I have more to use up.

I did, however, notice the zucchini-carrot noodle at the base of the lasagna, and although it’s fairly flavor-neutral, it gives extra chewiness and texture in each bite, and was the perfect resting place on which to pile layers of vegetables and cheese.

The family has requested this version of vegetable lasagna again, and anytime I can make an inexpensive, easy, vegan, gluten-free, makes-planned-leftovers kind of dinner, I am more than happy to oblige.

Lightened Up Vegetable Lasagna Casserole (vegan, GF) - A lighter, healthier, noodle-less spin on lasagna that the whole family will love!

Lightened Up Vegetable Lasagna Casserole (gluten-free, vegan)

A healthy, flavorful noodle-less vegetarian lasagna that the whole family will love. A ‘pancake’ of shredded zucchini and carrots is used in place of traditional noodles to help keep this lasagna lighter, healthier, and it helps incorporate every more veggies. Recipe may be doubled and baked in a 9-by-13-inch pan,baking times may need to be increased slightly.

Ingredients:

3 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchinis, grated)

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrot (about 1 large peeled carrot, grated)

1 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, optional and to taste

1 large egg, beaten (or egg replacer or flax egg)

1 1/2 cups sour cream (or Tofutti)

3 1/2 cups loosely packed shredded cheese, divided (cheddar, American, mozzarella, Ricotta, soy, goat, Daiya, or a favorite cheese blend)

one 16-ounce jar salsa

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine zucchini, carrot, salt, pepper, and pour the egg over the vegetables; toss to coat.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared pan, lightly packing it and smoothing it down with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until vegetables begin to show signs of slight browning on top and have firmed up. Depending on how watery the vegetables were, how much salt was added, and how much water they release will dictate baking time. The vegetable crust doesn’t have to be well-done or even very hardened, just not watery and juicy.
  4. Spread sour cream over the top of the crust in a smooth even layer.
  5. Sprinkle about 2 cups cheese uniformly over the sour cream.
  6. Drizzle the salsa (I used a very bean and corn-heavy salsa) uniformly over the cheese.
  7. Top with the remaining cheese, about 1 1/2 cups, sprinkled uniformly. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until cheese has browned and top is bubbly and golden. Depending on the kinds of salsa and cheese used, and how browned you prefer your food, will dictate baking times and could cause them to vary widely; let your eyes be your guide and watch for browning.
  8. Allow lasagna to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Lasagna can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Leftovers can be served cold or gently reheated.
Only Eats

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Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole (Vegetarian/Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Salsa & Cheezey Baked Beans & Vegetables (vegan, GF)

Spicy Baked Black Beans with Mixed Vegetables (vegan, GF)

Cheezy Vegetable Bake (vegan, GF)

Do you have a favorite casserole or meal that makes planned leftovers?

I never used to see the beauty in make-ahead meals and leftovers were things that were tolerated and something I ended up with, but never something I set out to make, on purpose.

Even if I didn’t have a family, the “cook once, eat twice” strategy is a good one and leftovers save time and sanity. Knowing I have something in the freezer or refrigerator made and all I have to do is re-heat it, makes the dinner hour so much more sane not having to start from ground zero. If I can rely on planned leftovers a couple times a week, it makes me much more sane.

Feel free to link up your favorite lasagna, casseroles, or easy weeknight dinner recipes.

136 comments on “Lightened Up Vegetable Lasagna Casserole”

  1. Nope, nothing traditional about that lasagna! But it looks tasty in its own unique way. You don’t like ricotta? OMG. I LOVE it. As in, I’ll eat it plain right out of the tub. And Skylar’s never had traditional lasagna? OMG x2. lol! Noodle + ricotta lasagna is probably our favorite household meal. But then again, growing up in an Italian household, that’s no huge surprise, right?

    • I know, I wonder what she’ll say when she finds out…Lol Well, then again, it’s Cali and there are so many little kids being raised, raw, vegan, GF, etc so she may not even be in the minority!

      Ricotta…you can have my share :)

  2. You know there is an Indian dish Pav-Bhaji! Whenever I make that I make sure I make some extra to eat it next day. For the simple reason that it taste all the more delicious later on.

  3. What a great way to use of zucchini. I just cleaned out my fridge tonight & realized we have at least a weeks worth more of zucchini. I’m running out of ideas. Except now you’ve kept me going with this recipe. So thank you.

  4. This is genius! So vegie packed!!! Love it, thank you for sharing.

  5. I love lasagnas that don’t include noodles….I guess I’ve never been a fan of noodles, so they don’t interest me. But I’m not a huge fan of different cheeses(cream and sour–ick) too. Hmmm. I tend to love tomato sauces though. The more sauce the better. I bet I could modify these ideas. Plus a one dish meal is always nice! Thanks!

  6. I absolutely love that idea for crust Averie, very creative and very much up my alley. Will need to try grating some veggies like that for maybe a quiche crust!

  7. Lasagna without the noodles? Its like a dream come true!!! Can’t wait to try!

  8. This looks fantastic. My niece and nephew would love something like this and being GF my sister could enjoy it too. Definitely passing this along to her. My mom never used ricotta, she used cottage cheese. I had no idea you were “supposed” to use ricotta until I was an adult LOL. And I grew up on casseroles. Can of mushroom soup, some cheese, noodles and whatever veggies. Mix, bake, eat.

  9. This is the perfect weeknight meal Averie. My kids would LOVE it. I love that there would be plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day!

  10. This is my kind of meal! I love all the veggies and anything that says casserole is a single girl’s dream. It screams easy and really? Who doesn’t love a good casserole.

    I also LOATHE ricotta. I started getting into cottage cheese a year ago or so when I was experimenting with dairy, but I haven’t had it in a while. Cheese tends to be too heavy a taste for me when it is hot outside. I give mine a little squirt of stevia drops and mix it up; the lemon or orange are good. ;)

    • I ate cottage cheese in h.s. & then not again til I was pregnant and not again since…there is something about it I do like. It’s really salty though and doesn’t bode well for me but I used to eat it with a swirl of jam in it. That sounds so MN, doesn’t it. But that’s how my mom & grandma ate it.

      And this ‘hot dish’ is so MN, too :)

  11. I love everything about this! It looks delicious, and I bet I’ll love it even more when I make a big tray of it!

  12. What a fun take on lasagna! So creative. The melty cheesy look always gets me hungry :). Hope you’re having a good week

  13. I love it when you do savory recipes! This looks like something I’d the whole pan of- over a few days of course! Bring the veggies on!!

  14. Wow – this looks AMAZING!!! Love all of the colors and fresh veg. My kind of lasagna. :)

  15. I tooooootally am in love with all the colors in this gorgeous lasagna. It’s almost too pretty to eat, the operative word being ‘almost.’ :)

  16. I’m not a fan of traditional lasagna noodles so I LOVE this crust idea! I also like the bright color with the carrots in there (reminds me of confetti). We love Mexican fare so the flavors sound perfect. This will make a fun Friday dinner project for me so I’ll be sure to report back. Great recipe (you are very good with savory things too!)

    • Oh can’t wait for you to try it and give me the verdict! Confetti…yes! That’s what it does look like in person, too! I only make savory because I ‘have to’ – trust me, I’d rather make and blog about sweets, but man cannot live on brownies alone. But woman can.

  17. This looks incredible! My mom always makes lasanga for a couple family dinners every fall…I’m going to ask her to break tradition and make your version instead! I know it will be a hit. :)

  18. this looks so good. i can not wait to try it.

  19. I LOVE the big zucchini-carrot-pancake-like noodle idea! I’m not big on traditional lasagna, but I do have a soft spot for Mexican-style lasagna. Yum.

  20. more of a Mexican lasagna, then? :) Not always wanting a pasta, I have made lasagna with layers of zucchini strips… so good!

  21. This looks warming and wholesome and comforting! Zucchini is always such a lovely sub for noodles!

    A good old standby casserole or “hot dish” – which, like you, is how we ALWAYS termed our casseroles growing up – is Shepherd’s Pie. Basically, I saute onions, garlic, sliced carrots and chopped zucchini, place it in a 9-inch pie dish and top with fluffy mashed potatoes! Then, when there is about 10 minutes left and the potatoes are looking golden and toasted, I sprinkle a bit of feta and mozzarella on top until melted and golden, too! My boys absolutely LOVE this dish with hot, freshly baked sourdough bread and butter and large romaine salad! Oooh…I think I might make this for dinner soon! Been a while…:-)

  22. Such a good idea, I love your veggie pancake base instead of noodles… it just means we get to eat more dessert, right? ;)

  23. Our love of pumpkin, granola, oatmeal raisin cookies, peanut butter everything, CI recipe, sweet/salty everything, tofu, and running are all shred. But I LOVE ricotta cheese! Can’t believe I found a difference between our tastebuds ;)

    This lasagna looks incredible, Averie. Totally something I could see myself making – that zucchini carrot noodle is RIGHT up my alley. I eat carrots like they’re going out of style. this is weird, but I wonder if pumpkin could be included in this recipe somehow. I love pumpkin with my veggies. shocker, I know!! Skylar would be in shock if she were served a noodle lasagna lol :)

    • It totally could. You could make a layer of pumpkin spread on top the noodle, or pumpkin-creamcheese/sourcream blend. So many ways to go and funny, my mind ALREADY went there, too! And I can’t believe we found something we don’t both love. Lol

      Saw your cookies blowing up on FG yesterday, too, BTW. NICE!

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