Meet my lasagna pièce de résistance, my slow cooker adversary-turned-amigo, the recipe that almost got away: Crock Pot Low Carb Lasagna.
Cheesy, saucy, low carb, and protein-packed, this crock pot veggie lasagna is the most comforting, crowd-pleasing way to serve summer veggies that I’ve found. It also nearly killed me.
I’ve seen a few “no noodle” lasagna recipes floating around the web, and I became enchanted with the idea of creating a crock pot version that I could set in my slow cooker and forget. In place of pasta, the veggie lasagnas used thin, wide slices of zucchini and/or eggplant. It seemed simple, perfect, and like a recipe even veggie-skeptics could enjoy.
Fast forward FIVE recipe attempts later, and here we are. The best, most foolproof no noodle, low carb lasagna recipe you will ever (and I mean EVER) find. It was worth it!
The issue with my first low carb lasagna attempts was that, no matter what I trick I tried—salting and draining the zucchini; reducing the amount of sauce; mixing eggs with the filling; leaving the crock pot uncovered during the last hour of cooking—the zucchini still let off so much liquid, the crock pot veggie lasagna came out soupy. It tasted lovely, but I had a hefty amount of discarded water at the bottom of my slow cooker. Not okay.
My final solution, and the recipe I posted here, is to either grill or broil the zucchini and eggplant slices first to remove as much excess water as possible. I tried my very hardest to eliminate this step (all of the first runs of the recipe didn’t include it), but I am afraid it simply must be done.
If you prefer to skip grilling or broiling the zucchini and eggplant, you can simply omit this part of the directions and discard the extra liquid—which is exactly how we ate attempts #1-#4.
In addition to the zucchini and eggplant “noodles,” I layered this low carb lasagna with sweet bell peppers, red onions, and a generous amount of cheese.
My final no noodle lasagna recipe note is to spend a few extra dollars to purchase a good quality pasta sauce (or to use homemade). Because this crock pot veggie lasagna recipe uses few ingredients, the taste of the sauce stands out, so you want to be sure it has excellent flavor. My favorite of the different sauces I tried was roasted garlic—rustic and zesty!
Perhaps the ultimate testament to this recipe is that, despite the multiple attempts, I didn’t grow tired of it. This crowd-pleasing veggie lasagna is healthy comfort food, topped with gooey, melty cheese, combined with the flexibility of the crock pot. What’s not to love?
Tools I used to make this recipe:
Mandolin: For cutting fruits and veggies into consistent, thin slices, there’s simply nothing better (or cheaper). I have the original, but in retrospect, wish I had purchased the wide.
Crock Pot Low Carb Lasagna made with zucchini and eggplant in place of pasta. Healthy, gluten free, and your slow cooker does all the work!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 to 4 hours
2 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant
16 ounces (2 cups) good quality store bought tomato-based pasta sauce (or homemade)
1 medium red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
16 ounces low fat cottage cheese (do not use skim—I used 1%)
2 large eggs
8 ounces part-skim shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese, divided (about 2 cups)—I used a blend of both cheeses
For serving: Parmesan cheese, freshly chopped herbs such as basil or parsley
With a mandolin or very sharp knife, slice the eggplant and zucchini length-wise into long, thin (1/4-inch) sections so that they resemble lasagna noodles. Spread the vegetable slices out onto a kitchen towel or layers of paper towels and sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt. Let stand for 15 minutes to allow some of the excess liquid to drain off. Pat dry. Prepare the zucchini according to one of the three methods below:
GRILL METHOD: Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium. Lightly coat with canola oil, then grill the eggplant and zucchini strips until cooked and lightly brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
BROIL METHOD: Place the top oven rack about 5 inches from the upper heat element. Set the oven to broil at 500 degrees F. Arrange the zucchini and eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. (Do not line the baking sheet pans with wax paper or parchment, as they will burn.) Lightly brush the slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip over the slices and repeat for the other side. Broil for 8 minutes, or until lightly brown, working in multiple batches as needed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Place the slices on paper towels to remove excess moisture.
NEITHER: Move ahead with the recipe—Skip grilling or broiling the zucchini completely. The lasagna will have a lot of excess liquid around the veggie slices in the slow cooker (even after salting them in step 1), but if this doesn’t bother you, you can scoop out the noodles and discard it.
Lightly coat a 6-quart crock pot with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup layer tomato sauce on the bottom of the crock pot—the layer will seem very thin. In a small bowl, beat the cottage cheese together with the eggs.
Create the first veggie lasagna layer in the crock pot as follows: 1 layer of eggplant “noodles;” 1/3 of the cottage cheese (about 2/3 cup); 1/3 of the bell peppers and onions; 1/3 of the mozzarella; 1/2 cup tomato sauce.
Create the second veggie lasagna layer, this time using zucchini: 1 layer of zucchini “noodles;” 1/3 of the cottage cheese; 1/3 of the bell peppers and onions; 1/3 of the mozzarella; 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.
Create the final layer: 1 layer of eggplant “noodles;” remaining cottage cheese; remaining bell peppers and onions; 1 layer of zucchini noodles; 1/2 cup tomato sauce; remaining mozzarella.
Cover the crock pot and cook on high for 2-3 hours, until the eggplant is tender. To test, insert a long, thin knife into the lasagna and ensure the eggplant feels tender. Recover, turn off the slow cooker, and let stand until any remaining liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes to 1 hour (note: if you did not grill or broil the vegetables first, you will have a lot of remaining liquid). To serve, slice and scoop desired portions, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and herbs as desired.
Depending upon the size of jarred tomato sauce you can find, you may have some leftover. Most jars come in a 24-ounce size, so you will have some sauce remaining. The extra sauce is great for reheating leftovers (top with a bit before microwaving), or if you like a saucier lasagna, you can heat it separately on the side and spoon it over individual servings.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and reheat gently in the microwave. Top with a little leftover sauce if you have it available.
I have not tried cooking this recipe on low heat, but I estimate it would take about 4-5 hours covered, depending upon your crockpot.
I also have not tried making this recipe in the oven instead of a slow cooker but would anticipate that it could be assembled in a 9×13-inch baking dish, then baked, covered at 350 degrees F for 35-45, until the vegetables are tender. Uncover the pan for the last 10 minutes of baking. I would recommend grilling or broiling the noodles first.