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.
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 (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.
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
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl combine zucchini, carrot, salt, pepper, and pour the egg over the vegetables; toss to coat.
- 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.
- Spread sour cream over the top of the crust in a smooth even layer.
- Sprinkle about 2 cups cheese uniformly over the sour cream.
- Drizzle the salsa (I used a very bean and corn-heavy salsa) uniformly over the cheese.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.