Broken Meatball Lasagna

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Lasagna doesn’t always have to be a gut bomb in a casserole dish. This lighter, brighter version shatters the mold and sheds the layers with ground chicken, zucchini, and lots of lemon and herbs. Peeling the zucchini and grating it on the small holes of a box grater ensures that it melts away into the meatballs as they cook, leaving them tender and juicy. Making meatballs, browning them, and then breaking them apart feels counterintuitive, but it’s an easy, efficient way to get deep brown color and the accompanying rich flavor without overcooking the meat. The meatball mixture will be loose and slump as it cooks—that’s okay! Perfection is not the goal here. Shards of regular—rather than no-boil—lasagna noodles are essential in this pursuit of pasta freedom.

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Ingredients

4 servings

1

large zucchini (about 12 oz.), peeled, finely grated (about 1½ cups)

cups panko

1

tsp. dried oregano

1

tsp. garlic powder

1

tsp. paprika

6

Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2

tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. kosher salt, plus more

1

lb. ground chicken

½

cup finely chopped dill

½

cup finely chopped parsley

1

28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes

1

large shallot, thinly sliced

8

oz. fresh ricotta

1

tsp. finely grated lemon zest

10

oz. lasagna noodles, broken into 2–3 pieces

2

3×2″ strips lemon zest, thinly sliced

Finely chopped dill and grated Parmesan (for serving)

Preparation

Step 1

Using a sturdy wooden spoon or rubber spatula, vigorously stir 1 large zucchini (about 12 oz.), peeled, finely grated (about 1½ cups), 1½ cups panko, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, and 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. kosher salt in a large bowl until combined and nearly paste-like. Add 1 lb. ground chicken, ½ cup finely chopped dill, and ½ cup finely chopped parsley and mix until fully incorporated (you don’t need to worry about overmixing here; mixture will be soft).

Step 2

Heat 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Using a #16 cookie scoop (about ¼ cup), portion out half of meat mixture (meatballs don’t need to be perfectly round; rustic-looking is good) and add directly to pot. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, 5–8 minutes. Carefully turn meatballs over and cook until second side is golden brown, 5–8 minutes (it’s okay if meatballs still look misshapen). Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Pour 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil into pot and repeat process with remaining meat mixture.

Step 3

Return all meatballs to pot, then add one 28-oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes, lightly crushing with your hands as you go, 1 large shallot, thinly sliced, and remaining 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt. Reduce heat to medium, 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.

Step 4

Meanwhile, whisk together 8 oz. fresh ricotta, 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, and a large pinch of salt in small bowl until smooth; set lemony ricotta aside.

Step 5

Cook 10 oz. lasagna noodles, broken into 2–3 pieces, in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente.

Step 6

Using tongs, drop noodles into pot with sauce and cook, stirring gently, until sauce coats pasta.

Step 7

Divide pasta among shallow bowls and spoon dollops of reserved lemony ricotta over each. Top with two 3×2″ strips lemon zest, thinly sliced, finely chopped dill, and grated Parmesan

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.

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