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Zucchini a natural for luscious lasagna

Thursday, August 30, 2001

By Arlene Burnett

It's that time of the year when zucchini takes center stage.


What can we say about zucchini that we've haven't already said or you don't already know? There's no doubt that this shiny green summer squash is versatile. It can be grilled, fried, stuffed or sauteed.

Pairing zucchini with garlic, onions, tomatoes or cheese creates mouth-watering appetizers or entrees.

Zucchini also has a sweet side. You'll find recipes for zucchini cakes and cookies.

And zucchini is good for you -- it contains vitamins A and C and is a good source of fiber.

Today's recipes add zucchini to the popular Italian dish, lasagna. Both call for spaghetti sauce and, of course, the zucchini. Zucchini Lasagna contains lasagna noodles, spinach, mushrooms and ricotta cheese.

Zucchini replaces the lasagna noodles and Parmesan cheese replaces the ricotta in Fresh Vegetable Lasagna. It calls for an optional addition of eggplant.

We tested both recipes the same day, and judging from the empty plates, we knew the recipes were a success. The only change we would make would be to make the Fresh Vegetable Lasagna in a conventional oven instead of the microwave.

Adrinja Pinyot of Penn Hills lost her recipe for zucchini lasagna. Here are two versions.

Pat Perkowski of Bethel Park sent in the first recipe: "My daughter doesn't like zucchini and usually picks it out of anything served to her. She actually eats every bit of this and enjoys it."

Zucchini Lasagna

28-ounce jar spaghetti sauce
6 uncooked lasagna noodles
15-ounce container ricotta cheese
8-ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 to 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 11-by-7-inch pan with vegetable spray.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Arrange 3 uncooked lasagna noodles over sauce. Top with another 1/3 of the sauce, ricotta cheese, vegetables and half of the mozzarella and remaining three noodles. Spread remaining sauce over noodles.

Cover with foil and bake 1 hour until noodles are tender. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and bake uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Donna Bernazzoli of Penn Hills sent this recipe.

Fresh Vegetable Lasagna

1 medium eggplant or zucchini (or combination of both), peeled and sliced lengthwise in 1/8-inch slices
2 cups spaghetti sauce
6 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup sliced mushrooms

In a 7-by-11-inch microwave-safe baking dish, alternate layers of zucchini (or eggplant), sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese (ending with Parmesan cheese). Top with mushroom slices. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave at full power for 16 to 18 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serves 4.

Note: To prepare in a conventional oven, cover lasagna with foil and bake in 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes.


Bill Boyles of McKeesport writes: "My quest is for the recipe for a cake my mother used to bake, called Harvest Cake. It was neither white nor yellow batter, but what could be called light caramel. It usually had a sea foam-type icing. It originated in the Harrisburg-Lebanon area.

Marianne Corbett of Ross writes: "If possible, I would like a recipe for a strawberry vinaigrette dressing. I was recently at a party where someone brought a salad from The Everyday Gourmet, in Aspinwall. They termed it a 'California Salad' with lettuce and cut strawberries, with this most wonderful dressing. If you or your readers know how I could get this recipe, I would greatly appreciate it."


"I was glad to read Suzanne Martinson's column in support of the Pittsburgh farmers' markets. Living in Monroeville, we try to support our local one at the high school (I don't suppose that is an option in Pittsburgh? or perhaps the city schools don't have the expansive parking lots of the suburbs).

"Since farmers' markets are always touted as something to bring in young technology workers, it would appear to me as particularly appropriate if the technology companies along Technology Drive on the Mon would provide at least a place on Saturday for them (it would be harder the other days, I'm sure). Think of the visibility from the Parkway (of course, people would have to take the Squirrel Hill exit going east).

"Another place I would consider very convenient for the consumer is the Strip District -- maybe in some parking lot at the northern end. I find the produce in the Strip District to be pretty poor as a general rule (except for the Oriental supermarkets), so it would be a good complement.

"Again it would be hard to get something during the week. (Which doesn't bother me since I don't have time to shop during the week.)

"I don't suppose they would ever consider converting the South Side Market house again into a covered market? That would indeed be ideal. Especially when it rained."

Cathy Chaparro

"Please do everything you can to keep our farmers' markets open. I love East Liberty and Highland Park. I think they are a vital part of our city."

Lowrie Ebbert
Squirrel Hill

"I tried calling the mayor's office, got transferred to a line that rang about 20 times and no one answered. I agree with you. I'm from Rochester, N.Y., and there is a permanent farmers' market there that used to be an old railway station. I just wish some of them were open a little later in the evening. I live near Monroeville where it's only on Saturday a.m. and if you don't get there early, there's nothing left.

"Our local Community Market (owned by Giant Eagle) has some local produce, but not a lot. I miss living in the Wilkinsburg area and going to theirs. It was great, even had a German guy who sold the best pepperoni and cheese. Hopefully, someone in the mayor's office will take up the cause!"

Jane E. Stoltman

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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