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Ground turkey or bulk Italian sausage meat may be substituted for ground beef --- I also added in a small chopped green bell pepper into the ground beef mixture
- 5 cups water (you might need more water)
- 3 medium zucchini, sliced
- 2⁄3 cup dry breadcrumbs, divided
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic (or to taste)
- 1 -2 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes (optional or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 cups pasta sauce
- 3 cups ricotta cheese (or use 2 cups ricotta and 1 cup creamed cottage cheese)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten (or use 2 small eggs)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, divided (can use more)
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley (can use fresh chopped parsley)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1⁄2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (set oven rack to lowest position).
- Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
- Bring about 5 cups water to a boil in a saucepan.
- Add in the sliced zucchini; simmer for 3 minutes or until just crisp-tender; drain on paper towels or a clean tea towel then cool.
- In a skillet cook the ground beef with onion, dried chili flakes, basil and oregano until the beef is no longer pink; drain fat.
- Add in garlic and continue cooking the beef until lightly browned.
- Add in the pasta sauce; cook for about 10-15 minutes, season with salt and pepper; remove from heat.
- In a bowl mix together the ricotta with egg/s, garlic powder, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, dried parsley; mix to combine, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Arrange all of the zucchini slices in the bottom of the baking dish (the slices do not have to be in one layer) then sprinkle with about 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs.
- Dollop HALF of the ricotta mixture over the breadcrumbs, then cover with HALF of the beef mixture, then sprinkle about 1 cup mozzarella cheese on top.
- Repeat the layers with remaining 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, ricotta mixture, then meat mixture (reserve the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese for the top after baking).
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup or more Parmesan cheese over the top of the meat mixture.
- Place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any spills.
- Bake uncovered for about 44-50 minutes or until heated through.
- Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese on top and return to oven for another 5-8 minutes.