Nothing is more Italian than a big cheesy & sauced-up slice of lasagna. I’ve consumed more layers of home-made noodles than I could count, but those days are behind me as I’ve seen so many benefits going Keto, I can’t see myself going back. So – when an Italian goes keto, does his lasagna go keto with him? How does he cope with pasta noodles being ripped from his life? Mr. Goldblum can you, ugh, help us please?
“Life Finds a Way”– Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park
It is so fitting that a traditional staple of our Italian garden “finds a way” to step up and save pasta from going extinct for this Italian Gone Keto? We’re talking about the humble zucchini, folks! Sure we won’t get quite the same texture, as nothing can replace those home-made noodles, but maximizing lasagna flavour is what we are focused on here – so when it comes to satisfaction, believe me… this recipe spares no expense.
Everything is simple and just takes “low and slow” time. Boiling a simple tomatoe / meat sauce while you prep the zoodles will fill your house with an intoxicating aroma. BONUS: This recipe is perfect for building up that bonding we talked about – spending time as a family in the kitchen creates bonds and memories for life.
Before diving in, let me share with you a tale from my pre-keto days. I once asked Nonna to show me how to make her famous traditional lasagna noodles. She agreed, and we arranged a Saturday morning for me to come early to prep a few aluminum trays to bring up to my in-laws’ cottage to share a meal. When I arrived at the agreed upon time, low and behold waiting on the kitchen table were 3 trays of lasagna packed up, ready to be placed in a pre-heated oven. When I asked Nonna when she was going to show me how she made the noodles, because this was the main reason I came so early, she responded with a no-nonsense “Non e per te” – translated roughly as “that would be too complicated for you”. She them proceeded to offer me “just an espresso” which I accepted… then followed with “1-2 biscotti”. As I finished those, a few slices of prosciutto came out of the fridge, with provolone on the side. I
walked rolled out of there bewildered, with a lasagna-stocked trunk, and a new appreciation for the sanctity of traditions – and how important it will be to create new ones in our family, one small step at a time.
“Non e per te” – translated roughly as “this is too complicated for you, I will instead make 3 trays ahead of time, and trick you in to eating for hours instead of wasting my precious nonna-time”.-Nonna giving life lessons – I love you, Nonna <3
Subbing in the zucchini simplifies what could be a daunting homemade lasagna in to something even a novice cook can whip up with minimal prep; this keto version is so much easier to make than the traditional variety precisely because we remove the ingredient holding the steepest learning curve – no need to make your own pasta noodles! Plus, you are making an entire casserole dish so this will provide keto leftover meals for days (and yes, it is even better the next day, and the next).
Keto Lasagna – RECIPE TIME!
So let’s start! Here are some basic ingredients you’ll need for the tomatoe sauce (make a big batch and freeze extra in small containers for future meals, there are economies of scale at work here!):
- Can or 2 of Diced Tomatoes (I like using the seasoned varieties)
- Can of Tomatoe Paste (skip this for fewer carbs)
- Chicken / Veg stock (optional, you could just use water)
- Garlic (fresh crushed is best, but go with the jarred stuff if in a pinch)
- Small to medium sized onion (diced very finely)
- Balsamic Vinegar(1 tbsp makes a huge difference)
- Red wine (optional, adds depth of flavour)
- Basic Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Oregano (+Chili flakes optional!)
Must-have Kitchen gadget: Immersion Stick Blender – I love using this immersion blender for sauces and soups to get a smooth consistency.
Using the stick blender also thickens the sauce. Chunks of onion and tomatoe in the sauce taste fine, but for best sauce coverage in this lasagna recipe I prefer to have a smooth, thick consistency. So if you don’t own one, do it!
“Più a lungo è, meglio è” – roughly translated as “the longer the better”.– Nonno, giving tips on tomatoe sauce boil duration.
So, get your sauce going first, then begin work on your lasagna assembly line, as letting your sauce simmer to reduce over time is what builds that depth of flavour. If you were to mix all ingredients together and remove from heat, your sauce will be bland and watery… you want your pot of liquid gold to simmer, thicken, and take its time developing that flavour.
Use a large pot on medium-high heat. Begin by sauteing your onions in some olive oil until they turn translucent. Your house already smells like heaven, and it’s only going to get better. Add your garlic for a minute. Season this mixture + stir.
Now add in your can(s) of diced tomato, tomatoe paste (if using) and stock/ water. Get the sauce to a nice slow boil, and reduce, stirring occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom down. After 30-45 minutes, if you notice your sauce becoming too thick / sticking to bottom, add a bit more stock or water. Near the end of your cooking time, add in your red wine (1/2 cup should do) and 2-4 tbsp of balsamic. Season this mixture. Do a final taste and adjust your seasonings. Remember, keep tasting and adjusting occasionally, involve your “kitchen team” for input as you blow on the dripping wooden spoon for a lick! Magic happens in making sauce, guys, so share it and build some memories!
OK now your sauce is on the go, prep your other ingredients! You’ll need:
- ~3-4 medium zucchini per tray of lasagna you are making
- Ground beef / Italian Sausage chunks (or use both!)
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Ricotta Cheese
- Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
- Your tomatoe sauce (using canned? check carbs! Many add sugar)
- Seasonings: Sat, Pepper, Oregano, Parsley. (Chili flakes optional)
Prep your Zucchini by peeling them manually in to long slices, or level up your life (spare no expense!) and bust out a spiralizer with peeling attachment. Lay these slices out to dry on a dish towel, and season them with flair, salt-bae style if absolutely necessary (it is). Tip: Salting the zucchini slices will draw their moisture out, just dab them with your dish towel before layering them down to minimize any extra moisture.
I love this time-saving kitchen gadget: Electric Spiralizer. This saves a ton of manual prep work and takes seconds to clean! I love using it for layering casseroles, and even more to make spaghetti-like zoodles for other pasta dishes which I’ll be writing about in the future! Going keto as an Italian meant I didn’t need a pasta-machine, so I subbed in this kitchen gadget – and wow the fun factor when cooking has exploded – my daughter loves helping and watching the zucchini come out the bottom!
While the zoodles are ‘sweating’, you can fry up our ground beef / sausage in a fry pan. This should be done quick and hot, to get some colour on the meat. Tip: Ensure you have added seasonings to ground beef before you throw it in the frying pan incorporating the seasonings well, as the flavour really only holds on ground meats when they are seasoned ahead of time
So you’ve got all your elements ready, now the last step is the real fun part.
Gather everyone around, and start layering! Below is my super secret method, do not deviate from this whatsoever or your dish will be ruined! 😛
- Little layer of sauce on bottom of pan ensures no sticking
- 1st layer of Zoodles* (remember to pat dry!)
- Seasoning (remember your chili is optional, and save parsley for last)
- Shredded Mozzarella
- Grated Parmesan
- 2nd layer of Zoodles*
- Ricotta Cheese
- Shredded Mozzarella
- Grated Parmesan
- *Continue alternating a meat layer with a ricotta layer
- TOP LAYER (ie: you have asked yourself at least twice already whether your lasagna has enough layers yet)
- 2 -3 x the amount of Shredded Mozzarella you’ve been using on interior layers. This is KEY 🙂
- Grated Parmesan
- Parsley flakes for colour (optional)
I hope this inspires you to get creative in the kitchen, this is all about experimenting, building some memories and having fun together. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t be afraid to fail + re-adjust.
See you next time in the kitchen, Ciao!