If you’re looking for a comfort meal that you can feel good about eating, then you have to try my Protein-Packed Beef & Zucchini Lasagna. It’s warm, deliciously cheesy, and really all in the name: protein-packed with beef, and zucchini, the best summer veggie.

IYKYK that last summer, the zucchini harvest from my garden was wild. (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, just take a look here.) While I usually make a loaf of my Zucchini Bread (Gluten-Free) with some of the harvest, last year my friend Olivia and I came up with a recipe for these insanely good Double Chocolate Zucchini Blender Muffins.

But this year, now that Bridge and I are newly in our mom and dad era, I wanted to make something comforting, nourishing and freezer-friendly. So, I’m excited to share this recipe with you guys!

PROTEIN-PACKED PASTA PERFECTION

Lasagna is one of those classic comfort foods that will always be a crowd-pleaser, but in staying true to my RGE roots, I wanted to make a better-for-you version. And what better way to lighten it up by making it high-protein, veggie-filled, but still so mouthwateringly flavorful?

This Protein-Packed Beef & Zucchini Lasagna is honestly one of the best I’ve ever had and I guarantee you’ll love it too.

Not only does it make for a great way to use up your garden-fresh zucchini, but between the grass-fed ground beef base of the meat layer and the cottage cheese-based cheesy, herby layer, it’s the heartiest, most delicious way to pack in the protein. Protein-packed pasta perfection!

And by the way, it’s beyond easy to make. Just takes 25 minutes to prep between boiling the noodles, blending together the cheesy layer and cooking your meat layer.

NUTRITIOUSLY IMPRESSIVE BEEF & ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

This Protein-Packed Beef & Zucchini Lasagna is seriously the best way to cook for and impress all your friends and fam. Because this is a lightened up, nutritious take on an otherwise heavier-style pasta dish, it’s the kind of lasagna you can enjoy year-round.

And honestly, there’s really no excuse not to get some greens in when you’ve got a recipe like this at your fingertips. Zucchini is rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants, which helps to remove excess inflammation from the body and is great for skin health (major win!). Plus, it’s high in fiber, making it a beneficial veggie for gut health (another win!).

And of course, I love ground beef because it’s so nutrient dense, versatile, and easy to cook. I get more into why I love this, what I’m calling, non-traditional superfood, in this blog post. But the way it’s cooked into the tastiest meat sauce layer with the onions, grated zucchini, minced garlic and marinara sauce is just next-level. I could literally eat a bowl of this layer on its own.

FREEZER-FRIENDLY LASAGNA

Aside from all the health benefits this Protein-Packed Beef & Zucchini Lasagna has to offer, it’s a great meal to prep ahead and freeze for when you want to heat up on those days you have less time to cook, are feeding a crowd, or want to bring to your new mama friends who will definitely appreciate the gesture.

Either way, I have a feeling this one will make its way into your regular rotation immediately. Let me know what you think!

INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED:

For the Cheese Layer:

  • Whole milk lactose-free cottage cheese (I like Good Culture)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Egg
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Lemon zest
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Italian parsley

For the Meat Layer:

  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onion
  • Grass-fed ground beef (I like 85/15 or 90/10)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Zucchini
  • Kosher salt
  • Dried oregano 
  • Rao’s Marinara (or your favorite marinara sauce)

Pasta:

  • Brown rice lasagna noodles

To Assemble:

  • Shredded goat mozzarella (sub regular mozzarella or goat cheddar)
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Avocado oil cooking spray

HOW TO MAKE MY PROTEIN-PACKED BEEF & ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

Preheat the oven to 375. 

For the Cheese Layer:

In a high-speed blender, add the cottage cheese, garlic, egg, lemon juice, lemon zest, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Blend on low-medium until smooth and fluffy. Remove from the blender and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the parmesan and parsley until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.

For the Meat Layer:

In a large, tall-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Once hot, add in the onions and cook until softened about 5 minutes.

Add the beef, breaking it up with the back of your spatula. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, for about 8-10 minutes. If needed, drain off any excess grease or liquid before transferring back to the heat.

Add in the garlic, zucchini, salt, and dried oregano. Stir to combine and cook until the zucchini has softened, about 4 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add in the marinara. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld and to allow the sauce to reduce slightly. Remove from the heat.

    For the Pasta:

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta and cook for 4 minutes, just to par-cook the noodles. Drain and run the pasta under cold water, separating any pasta sheets that may have stuck together. 

    To Assemble:

    Grease a 9×13 pan with olive oil. To the pan, add in about 1/3 of the meat sauce to the dish and spread evenly across the bottom of the pan. Layer the pasta atop the meat sauce in an even layer. Dollop about 1/3 of the cheese mixture atop the pasta and spread it around to create an even layer. Top with another 1/3 of the meat mixture and 1/3 of the shredded goat mozzarella.

    Repeat this with the next layer, in the order of pasta, cheese mixture, meat sauce, and shredded cheese. Add another layer of pasta and top with the remaining cheese mixture, shredded mozzarella, and the parmesan. 

    Spray a sheet of foil with avocado oil cooking spray to prevent the cheese from sticking. Wrap the lasagna tightly with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes.

    After 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly. For an extra crispy top, place the lasagna on the highest rack and broil on high for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn.

    Allow to cool slightly before serving. Top with extra parsley and serve warm. Enjoy!

    To Freeze:

    Assemble the lasagna as you would if you were going to bake it. Allow it to cool entirely, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Wrap again with foil and transfer to the freezer. It will last in the freezer for up to one month.

    To bake, thaw the lasagna overnight in the fridge. Before baking, set it on the counter to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Bake as directed. Depending on the temperature of the lasagna when you put it in the oven, you may need to add 10 minutes to the cooking time.

    RECIPE SUBSTITUTIONS & QUESTIONS

    For the cheese layer, I like to use Good Culture whole milk lactose-free cottage cheese (I have a dairy intolerance), but feel free to use your favorite cottage chees. The grated parm is optional, but definitely recommended.

    I prefer to use an organic, grass-fed ground beef for the meat layer. Choosing a higher-quality ‘grass-fed’ and ‘organic’ option will provide even more beneficial fatty acids for human health compared to conventional beef/meats (source), but you could also try making this with ground turkey or ground chicken, if preferred. And use whichever marinara sauce you like best! Bonus points if you make your own beforehand.

    Since I have gluten and dairy intolerances, I use brown rice lasagna noodles and shredded goat mozzarella to assemble the dish, but any lasagna noodle or shredded regular mozz, or even shredded goat cheddar will work.

    WHAT IS THE CORRECT ORDER TO LAYER LASAGNA?

    Generally, you’ll want to start with a layer of sauce on the bottom, so that nothing sticks to the bottom of your baking pan. Then, like we do in this Protein-Packed Beef & Zucchini Lasagna recipe, you add a layer of your lasagna noodles, followed by a layer of the cheese mixture, meat sauce and then shredded cheese layer. You’ll repeat in the order of pasta, cheese mixture, meat sauce, shredded cheese, ensuring the top is a layer of shredded cheese. Depending what kind of lasagna you’re making, you can adjust the layers as needed.

    WHAT IS BETTER FOR LASAGNA, COTTAGE CHEESE OR RICOTTA?

    I’d say this is a personal preference. Traditionally, ricotta is used; sometimes even a blend of ricotta and cottage cheese. But whatever you prefer based on taste or dietary preferences works! Ricotta will provide a richer, creaminess, and cottage cheese will add more protein while lightening things up a bit.

    MORE BEEF AND ZUCCHINI RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE:

    The Best Beef Bolognese

    Thai Basil Beef Lettuce Wraps

    Healthy Fried Zucchini Blossoms      

    Freezer-Friendly Beef Enchiladas

    The Best Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

    Herby Greek Chicken Skewers With Tzatziki

    Protein-Packed Beef & Zucchini Lasagna

    By Rachael DeVaux
    Prep: 25 minutes
    Cook: 1 hour
    Total: 1 hour 25 minutes
    Servings: 9
    This comforting and warm, light but cheesy, Protein-Packed Beef & Zucchini Lasagna is delicious, nutritious, easy to make, and bound to be a crowd-pleaser. You'll love it!

    Equipment

    • high speed blender
    • medium bowl
    • tall-sided skillet
    • large pot to boil pasta
    • 9×13 pan

    Ingredients 

    For the Cheese Layer:

    • 1 (16 ounce) container whole milk lactose-free cottage cheese, I like Good Culture
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, plus more for serving

    For the Meat Layer:

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 medium yellow onion, diced, about 2 cups
    • 1.5 pounds grass-fed ground beef, I like 85/15 or 90/10
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 medium zucchini, grated, about 2 cups
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 (32 ounce) jar Rao’s Marinara, or your favorite marinara sauce

    For the Pasta:

    • 12 ounces brown rice lasagna noodles

    To Assemble:

    • 8 ounces shredded goat mozzarella, sub regular mozzarella or goat cheddar
    • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
    • Avocado oil cooking spray

    Instructions 

    • Preheat the oven to 375.

    For the Cheese Layer:

    • In a high-speed blender, add the cottage cheese, garlic, egg, lemon juice, lemon zest, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Blend on low-medium until smooth and fluffy. Remove from the blender and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the parmesan and parsley until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.

    For the Meat Layer:

    • In a large, tall-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Once hot, add in the onions and cook until softened about 5 minutes.
    • Add the beef, breaking it up with the back of your spatula. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, for about 8-10 minutes. If needed, drain off any excess grease or liquid before transferring back to the heat.
    • Add in the garlic, zucchini, salt, and dried oregano. Stir to combine and cook until the zucchini has softened, about 4 minutes.
    • Reduce the heat to medium and add in the marinara. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld and to allow the sauce to reduce slightly. Remove from the heat.

    For the Pasta:

    • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta and cook for 4 minutes, just to par-cook the noodles. Drain and run the pasta under cold water, separating any pasta sheets that may have stuck together.

    To Assemble:

    • Grease a 9×13 pan with olive oil. To the pan, add in about 1/3 of the meat sauce to the dish and spread evenly across the bottom of the pan. Layer the pasta atop the meat sauce in an even layer. Dollop about 1/3 of the cheese mixture atop the pasta and spread it around to create an even layer. Top with another 1/3 of the meat mixture and 1/3 of the shredded goat mozzarella.
    • Repeat this with the next layer, in the order of pasta, cheese mixture, meat sauce, and shredded cheese. Add another layer of pasta and top with the remaining cheese mixture, shredded mozzarella, and the parmesan.
    • Spray a sheet of foil with avocado oil cooking spray to prevent the cheese from sticking. Wrap the lasagna tightly with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes.
    • After 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly. For an extra crispy top, place the lasagna on the highest rack and broil on high for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn.
    • Allow to cool slightly before serving. Top with extra parsley and serve warm. Enjoy!

    To Freeze:

    • Assemble the lasagna as you would if you were going to bake it. Allow it to cool entirely, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Wrap again with foil and transfer to the freezer. It will last in the freezer for up to one month.
    • To bake, thaw the lasagna overnight in the fridge. Before baking, set it on the counter to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Bake as directed. Depending on the temperature of the lasagna when you put it in the oven, you may need to add 10 minutes to the cooking time.

    Welcome! I’m Rachael.

    I enjoy sharing my love for food and fitness. I'm a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, and a New York Times Bestselling author. Here you'll find all kinds of recipes and kitchen hacks, as well as workouts and fitness motivation. Enjoy! — xx Rachael

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