The weather is finally summer-like in New England. Blue skies, sunny days, and leafy trees greet us most mornings. It's time for higher temperatures and lighter meals! Between all the summer grilling (that my husband enjoys doing), and the copious amounts of homemade ice cream the kids and I love to eat, I slowly start to trade out heavier casserole recipes for simpler fare. This Summer Squash Lasagna fits right in!
Layers of sunny yellow summer squash are sliced thinly, then topped with a savory basil ricotta mix, wilted spinach, and mozzarella. This dish is hearty, but not heavy, and full of cheesy goodness. What it doesn't have is noodles! Say what?! Trust me, you won't miss them!
Summer Squash Lasagna
3-4 summer squashes (or zucchini), medium sized
3 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce, homemade or store bought
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup + more for topping low moisture skim mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup fine parmesan cheese, finely shredded
3 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped, + more full leaves for garnish
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 375F.
Wash and dry the summer squash. Trim the stem portion and the bottom off with a sharp knife. Using a mandolin (carefully!), slice length-wise the squash into 1/8 inch slices. Of course, you can also slice the squash with a very sharp knife if you don't have a mandolin.
It is important to note that because there isn't a noodle/gluten component to this dish, it can get watery. It is very important to pre-salt the squash and allow it to drain on some paper towels for at least 15 minutes (even better, grill/sauté the slices slightly after salting and resting) before assembling your lasagna. I often skip the grilling part, but never the salting!
Place several sheets of paper towels on a large, clean cutting board. Arrange the squash slices in one even layer, without any overlapping, on the paper towels. Lightly salt the slices. Place another layer of paper towel on top. Continue this process until all of your squash slices are salted and pressed under paper towels. I like to add some weight on top, and will often use the lasagna dish that I will use later as a weight. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, chopped basil, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. After adjusting the salt and pepper to taste, add the egg and stir to combine. Reserve.
Take your baby spinach and place in a microwave safe bowl with about an inch of water. Microwave in 1 minute increments until wilted. Usually 3 minutes does the trick. You can also do this in a steamer, it just takes more time. Carefully transfer the spinach to a colander and drain. Press the water out with the back of a spoon. Set aside.
Take a 12 x 9 baking dish and spoon in a thin layer of tomato sauce, just enough to cover the bottom. Take your salted and drained squash and begin to evenly layer the slices on the bottom of the pan. I like to (if I remember!) do a pattern of placing the stem sides all facing one way for one layer, then reversing it for the next layer as I lay them down. It helps the structure of the dish.
Add several dollops of the ricotta mix on top of the squash slices, and spread gently. Add a light layer of spinach, squeezing any excess water with your hands into a bowl before placing on top of the ricotta. Then, a layer of shredded mozzarella and a few dollops of sauce (go easy on the sauce, since this is a saucy dish).
Repeat the pattern for one more layer and finish with a layer of squash slices on top. Add a light layer of sauce and sprinkle with some mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes covered and another 15-20 minutes uncovered, until browned and bubbly.
Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh whole basil leaves.