This is a crowd-pleasing, lighter, stovetop upgrade to a classic lasagna. It was also less time consuming to prepare. I loved the brightness from the incorporation of fresh herbs.
The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Shilpa Uskokovic. I modified the method and added garlic. The grated zucchini and panko in the meatballs made them very tender. Fabulous!
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 (5 in my house)
- 1 large zucchini (about 12 oz), finely grated (about 1½ cups)(I used a food processor)
- 1 1/2 cups panko
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, plus more, to taste
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1/2 cup finely chopped dill, plus more for serving
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
- 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 8 oz fresh whole milk ricotta
- finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 a large lemon
- 10 oz lasagna noodles, broken into 2–3 pieces (do not use oven-ready noodles)(I used DeCecco)
- grated Parmesan, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- Using a sturdy wooden spoon or rubber spatula, vigorously stir grated zucchini, panko, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and kosher salt in a large bowl until combined and nearly paste-like. (I grated the zucchini medium-large because I used a food processor.)
- Add ground chicken, chopped dill and parsley and mix until fully incorporated (you don’t need to worry about overmixing here; mixture will be soft). (I used a food processor to finely chop the fresh herbs.)
- Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
- Using a 3 tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out half of meat mixture (meatballs don’t need to be perfectly round; rustic-looking is good) and add directly to pot. (I did 2 batches of 8 meatballs.)
- Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Carefully turn meatballs over and cook until second side is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes (it’s okay if meatballs still look misshapen).
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate.
- Pour an additional 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil into pot and repeat process with remaining meat mixture. (the remaining 8 meatballs)
- Return all meatballs to pot, the add canned tomatoes with juice, lightly crushing with your hands as you go, sliced garlic and shallot, and remaining 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook meatballs and sauce, gently stirring occasionally (it’s okay if meatballs start to fall apart), until sauce is slightly thickened, 15–20 minutes. (After stirring halfway through the cooking time, I reduced the heat to low.)
- Meanwhile, whisk together ricotta, grated lemon zest, and a large pinch of salt in small bowl until smooth; set aside.
- Cook broken lasagna noodles in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente, about 3 minutes.
- Using tongs, drop noodles into pot with sauce and cook, stirring gently, until sauce coats pasta.
- Divide pasta among shallow bowls and spoon dollops of reserved lemony ricotta over each.
- Top with dill and grated Parmesan, as desired.
Do ahead: Meatballs and sauce can be made 3 days ahead; let cool. Transfer to an airtight container; cover and chill. Lemony ricotta can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.