Belinda Jeffery

A Lovely Light (Well, Light-ish!) Zucchini And Ricotta ‘Lasagne’

This lovely lasagne is perfect if you’re trying to avoid including too much gluten in your diet, as the pasta sheets are replaced with slender zucchini slices, which make the dish seem much fresher and lighter; as does the ricotta-based ‘sauce’ which helps sandwich the layers.

  • Serves 6, with leftovers (hopefully!)


  • 450g ricotta
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6-8 medium/large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 2mm thick slices
  • 250g mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 90g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • A smidgen of olive oil, for brushing
  • Meat sauce:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tablespoon sun-dried tomato pesto (or regular tomato paste)
  • 500g minced beef
  • 2 cups (500ml) tomato passata
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) red wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 heaped tablespoons thinly sliced oregano

For the meat sauce, warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook them, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes or until they’re somewhat translucent and pale golden. Stir in the tomato pesto, and let it cook for a minute or so to release its flavour. Increase the heat a little, and tip in the mince. Cook it for a couple of minutes until it changes colour, all the while using a spoon to break it up. Now mix in the tomato passata, red wine, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Adjust the heat so the sauce bubbles gently, and let it cook for about 10 minutes until it’s thick but moist, and a wooden spoon run through it leaves a clean trail. Stir in the oregano, then leave the sauce to cool a little.

Preheat your oven to 180C, and lightly butter a medium-large, deep-ish, ovenproof dish (the one I use is 25cm x 24cm x 7cm).

Plop the ricotta into a medium-sized bowl and mash it to smooth it out. Mix in the eggs, then add salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. (Go carefully with the salt, as the parmesan is salty too). Set this aside.

Cover the base of the prepared oven dish with a layer of slightly overlapping zucchini slices (you should use about one third of the slices). Spoon half the ricotta mixture over these and spread it out as best you can. Top this with half the mozzarella slices and sprinkle with half the parmesan. Dollop half the meat sauce over the cheeses and spread it out evenly. Repeat the layering with half the remaining zucchini, the rest of the ricotta mixture, the remaining mozzarella, and most of the parmesan, reserving a tablespoon or so for later. Spoon the remaining meat sauce evenly over the top.

Pop the dish in the oven, and cook the lasagne for 20 minutes. After this time, remove it from the oven, and lay the remaining zucchini slices attractively on top. Brush the slices with a little oil and sprinkle with the reserved parmesan. Return the dish to the oven and cook the lasagne for another 20 minutes until the top is lightly flecked with gold.

Remove the dish from the oven and let it settle for 10 minutes before serving – this allows it to firm up a little which makes it much easier to slice. (I often leave it longer as I prefer to eat the lasagne warm, not hot, as I think this allows the flavours to shine.) You only need serve a green or tomato salad with it, and warm, crusty bread to blot up every last morsel from the plate!

Zucchini ‘pasta’

The lovely, long zucchini slices in the photo were made by using a mandolin. I have a much-loved, well-used, Japanese Benriner mandolin that is perfect for this sort of thing – although you do have to watch that you don’t slice your knuckles too! You can also slice the zucchini with a sharp knife – I’ve tried using a veggie peeler, running it down the length of the zucchini, however the slices tend to be a bit too thin and lose their body as they cook.