Paleo Zucchini Lasagna
For the zucchini
6 small zucchini (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the meat sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (optional), plus more for serving
For the béchamel
4 tablespoons (56 g) ghee or extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (18 g) tapioca starch/flour
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
2 cups (16 fluid ounces) unsweetened almond milk
Freshly ground black pepper
For the ricotta layer
1 pound (about 2 1/4 cups) cashew ricotta or store-bought almond ricotta (I use Kite Hill)*
3 eggs (150 g, weighed out of shell)
Fresh basil, for serving
*Note from Nicole: This looks like a good, simple recipe for homemade cashew ricotta cheese.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim the ends off the zucchini and cut them lengthwise into strips a little less than 1/4 of an inch thick. You don’t need to worry about making all the slices perfectly even, but err on the side of making them too thin instead of too thick. Sprinkle the kosher salt on both sides of the zucchini slices and let them sit on top of paper towels while you make the meat sauce and béchamel.
To make the meat sauce, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until no longer pink. Stir in the marinara sauce and basil. If needed, add salt and pepper to taste (you may not need any if your sauce is already seasoned enough). Reduce the heat to medium-low so the sauce simmers, and allow it to continue to cook while you prepare the other components.
To make the béchamel, melt the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tapioca flour and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and beginning to brown just slightly (about 1 1/2 minutes). Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the almond milk and add the optional nutmeg. Cook, whisking almost constantly, for about 6 minutes, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the ricotta layer, in a medium-size bowl, place the ricotta and eggs, and mix to combine. Set the bowl aside. Line two baking sheets with wire racks. Pat the zucchini dry and arrange the slices in a single layer on the racks. Bake for about 10 minutes. The zucchini should appear very dry on top. After taking the zucchini out, reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
In a 9-inch x 13-inch casserole baking dish, pour about 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Top with a single layer of zucchini slices, then spread on half the ricotta mixture. Add another layer of zucchini, top with all of the meat sauce, and pour on another 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Top with a third layer of zucchini and spread on the remaining half of the ricotta mixture. Add a final layer of zucchini and pour the rest of the béchamel sauce on top.
Cover the lasagna with a piece of greased aluminum foil, place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until sizzling and browned in spots, about another 15 minutes. If desired, set the oven to broil and cook a few minutes extra to brown the top even more. Garnish with fresh basil, slice, and serve hot.
Becky is a food photographer, recipe developer, and cookbook author who shares creative Paleo and gluten-free recipes on her blog, A Calculated Whisk. Her first cookbook, Paleo Planet, includes internationally inspired Paleo meals, desserts, sauces, spice blends, and more. Becky enjoys searing short ribs, chopping chocolate, photographing citrus fruit, and salting desserts. She lives in Chattanooga with her fiancé and his cat.