One-Skillet Healthy-ish Chicken and Zucchini Lasagna

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Last night I taught another Zoom cooking class to 70+ people across the country, this time to benefit The Navy SEAL Foundation. It was so much fun, and it’s really awesome for me as a recipe developer to get to see from SEVENTY people where the sticking points are in the cooking process. We raised $1,120 for NSF, something that I’m really proud of since my husband George is a former SEAL and has seen firsthand the impact that NSF is able to make for SEAL Gold Star Families.

Next Wednesday, June 3rd we are learning how to make perfect salmon (or chicken or seitan) with vegetables, plus the ultimate summer dessert: macerated berries with ice cream and the most insanely delicious pecan shortbread crumble. A portion of proceeds will go to Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

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I taught everyone how to make One-Skillet Lasagna, plus the insanely easy, absolutely delicious pot de creme from my cookbook. I made the lasagna a “choose your adventure” – my students could choose ANY ground meat, use either no-boil or zucchini for their noodles, and cottage cheese or ricotta for their ricotta layer.

One gal went vegetarian with mushrooms + zucchini + ricotta and her husband declared it “the best lasagna ever.” Another made her own vegan cashew ricotta! My cousins in Tennessee used half beef, half sausage. Yum.

Since I was teaching, I needed to demo how to use both zucchini planks and regular lasagna noodles, so I alternated my layers. And I LOVED the results. I’ve made a lot of lasagnas, and a lot of zucchini noodle lasagnas, but I’d never combined them into one! It’s the perfect healthy-er option when you want regular noodles, but you need to lighten things up a bit. I also used Good Culture cottage cheese instead of ricotta and was blown away by the results. Delicious, and so much lower calorie than ricotta.

Last night the big takeaways were people being confused about how much liquid was in their skillets while they were cooking the meat, how full their skillets were of lasagna, and how to tent their skillets with foil properly. I wouldn’t have known that any of these areas were tricky, but I was able to rewrite the recipe to hopefully really clarify these items! Pretty cool.

I hope you’ll love this recipe as much as my Zoom students did!

Turkey Zucchini Skillet Lasagna

Servings 4 to 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 small zucchini
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper1
  • 16 ounces cottage cheese (pour any excess liquid off the top)
  • 12 ounces mozzarella, shredded, divided (about 3 cups)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, divided (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 (9 ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles (also often labeled “oven ready”) (you won’t use the whole box)

Substitutions:

  • Zucchini—> yellow squash are the best substitute.
  • Yellow onion—> shallots are the best sub, but any onion works.
  • Garlic cloves—> 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Diced tomatoes and tomato sauce—> any canned tomato product works here. If you can only find canned tomato sauce, use 42 ounces of that! If you can only find whole peeled tomatoes, used 42 ounces of that, but blend them until chunky-smooth before using. The most important part is that you have 42 ounces of ANY tomato product.
  • Dried oregano—> 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, or 2 tablespoons very finely minced fresh basil will do the trick since you already have it. Dried thyme or any Italian-ish dried seasoning is a great sub for dried oregano.
  • Black pepper—> tiny pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Cottage cheese—> Ricotta or mascarpone cheese. Vivian Howard has a lasagna made totally with goat cheese instead of ricotta that I ADORE, but you gotta really love goat cheese!
  • Mozzarella—> any melty cheese will work! Provolone, jack, white cheddar.
  • Parmesan—> pecorino.
  • Egg—> totally fine to omit completely.
  • Fresh basil—> 1 tablespoon fresh basil = 1 teaspoon dried basil. So, use about 5 teaspoons of dried basil in the cottage cheese mixture. Fresh parsley is also a good sub, at a 1:1 ratio!
  • No-boil noodles—> you can use all zucchini, or just buy regular lasagna noodles, cook them per package instructions, then use them in place of the no-boil. You can also just use your favorite pasta, stir it into the sauce, dollop the ricotta in, top with cheese, and basically make a big baked pasta situation!

Instructions

  • Cut your zucchini in half horizontally, then cut into skinny strips (the same width as your lasagna noodles) vertically. Spread the “zucchini lasagna noodles” out on several clean dish towels or paper towels and sprinkle generously on both sides with salt. Let the zucchini sit until it’s time to use the noodles, then pat totally dry.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. 
  • Warm 1 tablespoon oil in a 12 inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 small diced onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add 1 pound ground chicken and 4 minced garlic cloves and cook, using a spoon to break the meat up until small pieces, until it is no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. 
  • Stir in 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes and 14 ounces tomato sauce. Season with 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes over medium-low. 
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 16 ounces ricotta, 8 ounces (2 cups) shredded mozzarella, 2 ounces (3/4 cup) Parmesan, 1 egg, 1/3 cup chopped basil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
  • To assemble the lasagna, scoop all but a very thin layer of sauce out of the skillet and into a bowl. Top with 4 to 5 no-boil lasagna noodles, breaking them to fit into an even layer. It doesn’t matter how broken up the noodles are, they will cook into one big noodle layer, so just wedge them into the skillet as best you can!
  • Top with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture and 1/4 of the remaining tomato mixture. Top with a layer of zucchini noodles, overlapping them and squeezing them into the skillet however necessary to make an even layer across the sauce, and follow the same pattern two more times – once with no-boil noodles, once with a second layer of zucchini noodles.
  • Cover the top layer of noodles completely with the remaining tomato sauce. If you do not have enough tomato sauce left to cover the noodles at the end, pour 1/4 cup water over top and press down to submerge completely in liquid. It is very important that the no-boil noodles are covered in liquid, otherwise they will not cook. Top with the remaining 1 cup grated mozzarella and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. 
  • Tent the skillet with foil so that it is not touching the cheese.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and broil for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to lightly brown the cheese. 
  • Garnish with basil and freshly ground black pepper. 

Notes

  • Quickie hack this recipe by just pouring 42 ounces of jarred pasta sauce (like Rao’s marinara) in with the cooked chicken, then going from there. No need to season it or simmer it down since it’s already been done!
  • You can use ANY ground meat you want for this recipe. Just pay attention to my cooking cues, being sure to cook the meat until it’s no longer pink, and until all liquid has evaporated.
  • You can also, of course, use entirely zucchini noodles, or entirely no-boil noodles!
Author: Caroline Chambers

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