Gorgeous Gourds

Zucchini lightens up lasagna—just in time for summer

Photograph by flickr/adactio

We tend to think of lasagna as a wintery casserole, but chef Josie Le Balch likes it anytime. “You can customize it with vegetables that showcase the seasons,” she says. The summer version she serves at Josie Next Door in Santa Monica stars green and yellow zucchini and is put over the top by her homemade ricotta (go to LAmag.com/recipes), but store-bought ricotta works in a pinch. “This is a great dish to make ahead and heat up after a long day at work,” says Le Balch. “Add some crusty bread and a glass of rosé, and you are set.” 

Zucchini Lasagna
(Serves 8 to 10) 

3 medium green zucchini, thinly sliced on a wide diagonal
3 medium yellow zucchini, thinly sliced on a wide diagonal
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground organic chicken or ground grass-fed beef
4 cups store-bought tomato sauce
1  9-ounce package “no-boil” lasagna sheets
1   cup grated Parmesan
3 ½  to 4 cups home-made ricotta (or store-bought part skim)
 4  tablespoons whipping cream 


Set grill to medium heat. Brush zucchini with olive oil. Working in batches, grill zucchini until lightly browned and tender, turning once after about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate to cool.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until almost tender, about 6 minutes. Add chicken or beef and cook, breaking it up with a spatula until lightly browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Stir in 2 cups tomato sauce; bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish lightly with olive oil, and spread ½ cup tomato sauce evenly over bottom of dish. Arrange 3 sheets of pasta over sauce. Spoon half of meat mixture evenly over pasta, and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan. Top with 3 more sheets of pasta. Arrange half of zucchini evenly over pasta. Drop half of ricotta by spoonfuls evenly over zucchini. Drizzle 2 tablespoons cream over ricotta and zucchini, and top with 3 sheets of pasta. Repeat layering process with remaining meat mixture, ¼ cup Parmesan, 3 sheets of pasta, and remaining zucchini, ricotta, and cream. Top with 3 sheets of pasta and remaining tomato sauce and Parmesan. Let stand 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake lasagna until heated through, about 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.