A little lighter in carbs, Zucchini Lasagna Rolls are prepared by rolling thinly sliced zucchini with spinach, egg, three cheeses, and seasonings. Baked in marinara sauce, don’t be fooled by this healthier dish; it is both filling and robust!
We get cravings for lasagna sometimes. It’s not something I make often, because I find it to be too much work! Is that just me? Boiling noodles, allowing them to cool, making sauce, shredding cheese, etc. Zucchini Lasagna Rolls might take just as long to make; I don’t know. But, I feel as though it’s faster and that works for me!
In an effort to eat healthier, I made these Zucchini Lasagna Rolls, and I’m sure glad I did! The first time I made it was about five years ago. I remember arriving home from work absolutely famished for lasagna. The problem was that I had no lasagna noodles in the pantry. I remembered seeing a recipe online for a very traditional style lasagna without noodles, but with zucchini instead.
The recipe was by Sarah who runs A Saucy Kitchen blog. I made a few adjustments; some out of necessity, and others because I was running out of time. I needed to get dinner on the table! I never like to leave anyone hungry! More importantly, I never care that much for cooking for more than an hour or so after getting home from work.
BUT COOKING CAN BE RELAXING!
Truth be told, I had so much fun making this. I found it to be mind-numbing – in a good way! To me, it was almost therapeutic after a long day at work to carefully slice the zucchini. Then I got to smear the slices with the cheese mixture and carefully roll each one up, before tucking them into the baking dish. It was fun to find the perfect spot in the baking dish so that the rolls would look curly and pretty. What!? We eat with our eyes first, right!
As you can see, that marinara sauce makes a mess. When it gets hot, and the cheese melts down into it, it’s bound to splatter. A good way to keep your oven clean is to place the baking dish onto a baking sheet. Then, tear off a large piece of aluminum foil and wrap it around the dish. Basically, you’re creating a wall around the dish to keep the splatters in.
The first time I made this, I didn’t do this. It wasn’t like my oven looked like a crime scene, but it most certainly needed a good wipe down. To be honest, I think the reason why people don’t like to cook is because of the clean up. If you take care while cooking, most spills and splatters can be eliminated.
SLICING THE ZUCCHINI
The skin of the zucchini is left on for this recipe. So, start by washing it well and then trim off the ends. The zucchini needs to be sliced lengthwise. Try to get the slices as even as possible. If you slice them too thin, you’ll be eating just the cheese mixture and marinara sauce when all is said and done. If you slice them too thick, you won’t be able to roll them up without them breaking.
Unless you are very skilled with using a knife, I would recommend a mandolin. That way, you will get perfectly even slices each and every time. You will want to aim for no more than 1/8th of an inch thick. That’s about 3 millimeters. You will note from the photos that some of my rolls are thicker than the others. I did not use a mandolin. Two of my slices where too thick to roll up.
A mandolin isn’t too expensive, but you might also have a tool in your house that can already do the work for you. If you have a vegetable peeler, try using that to cut long strips from the zucchini. Some vegetable peelers have an adjustable blade so that you can control the thickness of the flesh you are taking away. Otherwise, Dear Reader, break out your best knife and have a go at it yourself!
NO, NO WATER; WE DON’T WANT NO WATER!
I have seen so many variations of these Zucchini Lasagna Rolls! So many times, there is one constant. That’s a pool of water at the bottom of the dish. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care much for watered down marinara sauce. The water comes from the zucchini of course! It’s loaded with water. You will want to get rid of some of it, and it’s so easy to do.
Once the zucchini is sliced, lay it onto wire cooling racks with a baking sheet underneath. Generously salt the zucchini slices with sea salt. Turn them over and salt the other side too. Let the slices sit for about 30-45 minutes. The salt will draw the excess water out of the zucchini. The slices will be softer, meaning that they are more pliable. They will have less water, which means when they bake, they won’t release too much water into your dish. And, lastly, the slices needed to be seasoned anyway!
When done, lay the slices onto paper towels. Lay more paper towels on top and press down with your palms to soak up the water. This will also remove just enough of that salt to make these zucchini slices perfectly seasoned. Now you’re ready to roll them with that cheese and spinach mixture!
Once you have prepared your cheese and spinach mixture, and the zucchini slices have been salted and patted dry, it’s ready to put this all together. Start by adding two cups of marinara sauce to a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish or its oval counterpart. Spread the sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan. Next, working with one slice of zucchini at a time, lay it flat on a cutting board. Use a teaspoon to spoon small portions of the cheese mixture down the length of the slice. Gently roll from one end and position it standing up into the marinara sauce.
Continue to do this until all of the zucchini slices are used up. Don’t squeeze the rolls into the pan. You just want to have them snuggled up to each other, but not pushed together. If you have any extra cheese mixture left over, you can spoon some into the tops of the rolls. You can fill in any gaps in the pan with the mixture as well.
Once that’s done, it’s time to bake. Bake the entire dish, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove it from the oven, sprinkle over the remaining cheese, and continue to bake it for another 10 minutes. Finally, remove from the oven one last time and let rest for 3-5 minutes. Top with parmesan and fresh basil or oregano leaves and serve.
YOU CAN RE-HEAT THE LEFTOVERS TOO
These Zucchini Lasagna Rolls will most definitely be my go-to lasagna dish. In all probability, I will never use noodles again. (We all know that’s a complete lie! No one can eat better 100% of the time!) Both John.e and McKenna loved them – as did I! Using only four zucchini, I was able to make this entire dish! We all ate about 5 each for dinner, and I transferred the remaining rolls to a smaller baking dish, allowed it to cool, then wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.
The next day, I topped the leftovers with a little extra cheese and popped it into the oven for twenty minutes to reheat it. I served it with a simple salad and our bellies were satisfied once more! If you’re watching your weight, or trying to ease up on carbs and calories, then I would highly recommend this dish. Not only is it a healthier option, it’s absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious! I can’t wait to have more!
Zucchini Lasagna Rolls
- 4 large zucchini, cut into 1/8 inch slices
- 300 grams frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 larges eggs
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup fresh basil or oregano for garnish
- Start by laying the sliced zucchini onto wire cooling racks with a baking sheet underneath. Use one and a half teaspoons of the salt to salt the zucchini slices on both sides. Let them sit for 30-45 minutes so that the salt can remove excess water.
- When done, lay the slices onto paper towels. Lay more paper towels on top and press down with your palms to soak up the water. This will also remove just enough of that salt to make these zucchini slices perfectly seasoned.
- While you are waiting for the zucchini, use a wooden spoon and mix together the spinach, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the parmesan, all of the ricotta, both eggs, the remaining half teaspoon of salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning.
- Using a 9×13 baking dish or a similar size dish, add the marinara to the pan and spread it evenly over the bottom and set aside.
- Next, you’ll start to assemble the rolls. Use a cutting board and lay one slice of the zucchini down flat. Use a teaspoon to spoon on little bits of the ricotta mixture down the length of the zucchini slice. You will use about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture for each roll.
- Roll up the zucchini slice, firmly, but not too firm so that the ricotta pushes out the ends. Place the zucchini roll standing up in the baking dish. Move on to the next, filling the pan, until you have used up all of the zucchini.
- Use up any remaining ricotta mixture by pushing small amounts into each zucchini roll.
- Transfer to a pre-heated 400 degree F oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the remaining mozzarella. Bake for another 10 minutes.
- Finally, remove from the oven one last time and let rest for 3-5 minutes. Top with remaining parmesan and fresh basil or oregano leaves and serve.