I came up with this recipe with my roommate at the time was experimenting with cutting out lentils. With no members of the legume family in our diets, vegetarian sources of protein were limited. We had more than our fair share of Summer Tofu Salad Bowl and Vegetable Packed Crustless Quiche with Feta but there are only so many egg and tofu dishes you can stomach in a week. So I turned to protein-rich cottage cheese to help square out our vegetarian dinners. Using our high supply of zucchini from our weekly veggie box and my motivation to get some protein versatility into our diets, I came up with this High Protein Zucchini Lasagna with Cottage Cheese. Not only is this vegetarian dish high in protein, it is also great for those looking for a low carbohydrate meal and I have told that it complies with those that are following a keto vegetarian diet, or paleo vegetarian diet. And the best part is… it’s easy!
“Cottage cheese has triple the amount of protein than most yogurt does, and can be enjoyed in both sweet and savoury dishes.”
When I first heard about zucchini lasagna, I made the subconscious decision to leave that dish for worth the extra effort occasions. Traditional lasagna is no easy task, so surely one using a vegetable as the noodle would be even more difficult. Not true! This version may even be simpler AND packed full of the more nutritious foods, with less of the not-so-nutritious ones.
For the filling, I used seasonal summer vegetables including beans, carrots and chard. I love the addition of mushrooms as well, which add a slightly meaty texture. Mushrooms do release some water during the baking process which I have accounted for in this recipe. If you decide not to use mushrooms in this dish, be mindful that some water may need to be added to the sauce recipe (see recipe notes for more information).
Some recipes for zucchini lasagna say to bake the zucchini noodles first using olive oil and salt. This helps to draw out some of the moisture from the zucchini. To keep this recipe simple, I decided to skip this step. By doing so the zucchini will release some liquid during the cooking process. Keeping this in mind, my vegetable and tomato sauce mixture will be quite thick. But don’t worry, once the lasagna is cooked everything should even out to the perfect consistency.
High Protein Zucchini Lasagna with Cottage Cheese
- 2 medium zucchinis or equivalent amount in summer squash
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small small onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste organic
- 680 mL bottle tomato sauce or can of crushed tomatoes with the juice or 1.6 pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
- 6 cups summer vegetables (I used 2 cups of chopped green beans, 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, 1 cup of diced carrots and 1 cup of chopped chard)
- 1 tbsp cane sugar
- 4 tbsp fresh basil chopped
- 1 tsp oregano dried
- 500 g cottage cheese organic
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 egg free range
- 1/4 tsp sea salt or to taste
- black pepper ground
- 100 g mozzarella cheese shredded
- Preheat oven to 375F. To prep the zucchini, slice into 1/8th“ thick slices lengthwise so as to replicate long lasagna noodles. Set aside.
- In a large pot heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes or until it starts to turn slightly golden and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and fry with the onion and garlic for 30 more seconds.
- Add the tomato sauce (or fresh tomatoes including the juice) to the pot. Next, add the vegetables that will require the most cooking. For mine, I added the carrots first and let them cook for about 5 minutes. Then I added the mushrooms* and let them cook for another 2 minutes before finally adding the beans and chard.
- Once the beans are cooked, probably about another 2 minutes, taste and add the sugar to your sauce if it tastes too acidic. Add the basil and oregano, salt and pepper as needed.
- In a separate bowl combine the cottage cheese, egg and nutritional yeast. Season as needed.
- To assemble the lasagna put a third of the tomato sauce mixture on the bottom of a lasagna sized baking dish. Don’t worry if it looks too thick and doesn’t spread well (liquid will be released from the zucchini as the dish cooks making it saucier). Top with a third of the zucchini ‘noodles’, then with a third of the cottage cheese mixture. Repeat this order until all your ingredients are used up. I like to end with a little bit of tomato sauce on top, then finish the dish with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Cover with tin foil (put a little bit of oil on the bottom of the tin foil to prevent the cheese from sticking) and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Check the dish, it should be nice and bubbly by now (and saucy), remove the tin foil and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving. Now time to enjoy this guilt-free dish!
Making it fall or winter: Try using butternut squash, kale and carrots for your filling.
Not a fan of cottage cheese: Try using ricotta cheese instead.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.