Nettle Zucchini Lasagna

Nettle Zucchini Lasagna

I have always loved Lasagna, but recently I made a Nettle Zucchini Lasagna recipe that is absolutely delicious. Zucchini makes a great replacement for pasta if you are trying to reduce your carb intake or if you just want to minimize wheat in your diet. My traditional Lasagna recipe calls for spinach, but in spring when the stinging nettles are up, I like to use them as a replacement. If you can find some young nettles in spring, harvest them as they add great nutritional value to your Nettle Zucchini Lasagna.

Cooked nettles

Cooked needles being drained

Nettle Preparation:
A day before assembling the nettle zucchini lasagna recipe: Harvest and blanch young nettles and make your tomato sauce.
Harvest two grocery bags full of nettle leaves and stems. Get a large bowl of ice cold water ready for your nettles to be submerged into once they are finish blanching. Add young nettle leaves to a large pot ¾ full of boiling water. I find that a large pot with a pasta basket works great. Using a pair of tongs push the leaves down to submerged them into the water. Let the nettles wilt maybe 1 1/2 – 2 minutes depending on how crowded the leaves are in the pot. With the tongs remove nettle leaves from the pot and submerge into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. After they have cooled, put them into a strainer and let them drain. Squeeze the nettles to eliminate some of the excess water. Chop and put into a zip-lock bag and refrigerate. If you cannot find or do not have access to young nettles, you can use spinach or kale as an alternative.

Bubbling Easy Tomato Sauce

Cooking Easy Tomato Sauce.

Easy Tomato Sauce Preparation:
If you are short of time and have existing tomato sauce either purchased or home canned you can skip the following recipe. If not, this is a great, easy recipe that will make your Nettle Zucchini Lasagna taste great.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried Basil
2 tablespoons Tomato paste
2 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil or parsley, chopped; or 2 heaping tbsps. basil pesto
Parmesan (optional)
1 -2 tablespoons ground Sundried tomatoes (optional)
Grey Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Pinch of Cinnamon (optional) (instead of sugar)

In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until soft and the onion is light golden brown. Add chopped tomatoes, garlic and lightly sauté.  Add cayenne, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes or until thick. At the end add your fresh basil and or parsley and let simmer 3 minutes. Grate some parmesan into the sauce if used. If you find you sauce is not thickening up enough I like to add a little sundried tomato powder.  If you desire a slightly sweeter flavor you can add a pinch of cinnamon rather than sugar.

Nettle Zucchini Lasagna Recipe
6 -8 cups prepared nettles (see above)
3 quarts of easy tomato sauce (see above)
6 – 8 medium Zucchini, sliced length wise into ¾ inch slices (these are your noodles) salt, pepper and lightly oil, drain
1 lb. grass feed beef (optional) or turkey burger
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium pepper, diced
1 (12 oz.) pack Cremini mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
1 medium zucchini diced (or use what you have left over from slicing of the noodles)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or basil, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley

Grate Mozzarella cheese

Grated Mozzarella for the Nettle Zucchini Lasagna

Basil Cheese Sauce
2 cups ricotta
1 cup grated parmesan
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

1 lb. grated Mozzarella
1 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Sliced Zucchini as noodle replacement.

Sliced Zucchini to replace pasta noodles

Slice zucchini, salt, pepper, olive oil and set aside on a cookie sheet so that the moisture can drain from the noodles (zucchini). By salting the zucchini it brings out the moisture. Lay tray at an angel so the moisture runs to one side of the pan. You may need to drain the pan a few times.

Seasoned Zucchini slices

Seasoned Zucchini slices

Use a large sauté pan with 2 ½- 3 inch sides on it.  Lightly coat with olive oil and bring to medium-heat. Add beef and cook until brown and crumbly. Remove from pan and reserve for later.

Cut vegetables

Cut vegetables prepared for cooking

Use the same pan but start with it clean of grease, add more olive oil. Add diced onion, pepper, mushrooms, sauté for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are soft and dark brown. Add extra zucchini and add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook lightly as not to cook the garlic too long or it will get bitter. Shut off the heat. If using meat add this to your pan; along with your tomato sauce and stir. Turn off heat.

Cooked Vegetables

Cooked vegetables and meat to layer between Zucchini slices

In a small bowl, add ricotta, parmesan, eggs and basil. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper to make your basil cheese sauce
In the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch deep-dish baking dish, add a couple of ladlesful of sauce mixture and spread it out in an even layer. Arrange some of your zucchini noodles length wise in baking dish to completely cover the sauce. Spread 1/3 of the mushroom and pepper (meat) mixture. Add 1/3 of the basil cheese sauce mixture. Distribute 1/3 of the nettles to create another layer. Sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Layers of zucchini

Layering your pan with zucchini instead of noodles.

Continue with you next layer by placing the zucchini noodles in the opposite direction (horizontal) and repeat these layers until all of the ingredients have been used up or the pan is full. Be sure to end with a layer of zucchini noodles and top with sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Cover with parchment paper and tin foil.

Cheese layer

Cheese layer

Nettle Layer in pan

Nettle layer

Place your baking dish filled with nettle zucchini lasagna on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until hot and bubbly, about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the parchment and foil and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and lightly cover it with the foil and let cool 20 minutes before slicing.

Final dish of nettle zucchini lasagna

Final dish of nettle zucchini lasagna

Serve with a lettuce salad with a butter milk or creamy dressing.

For optimal flavor and slicing make and bake lasagna the day before. Heat it up again before slicing.