Everywhere I go, I end up talking to someone who is practicing a low carb or keto lifestyle. Maybe they just started or maybe they’ve been going for several months, but there is no denying that is has become the “it” weight loss plan of the year. I myself have been following a ketogenic plan since the beginning of December and have lost a satisfying 20 pounds so far. I’ve gone from a gung-ho, macro counting psycho to what my trainer, Joe, calls “casual keto” and that’s where I’m pretty happy. I know what I can eat and I don’t beat myself up for going over my carb limits for the day. That being said, a low carb diet (like any diet) can get pretty monotonous. You can only eat so much cheese and salami before you cry “Uncle”, so I’ve been in search of something new to try.
What I have really been missing for the last few months is pasta. While zucchini noodles are a fine replacement for spaghetti, there hasn’t been any lasagna in my life and I have been getting a hankering for some. I didn’t want it to be all watery like some vegetable lasagnas out there, I wanted the satisfaction of a layered dish that can stand on its own and only gets better with a day or two in the fridge. Enter the Italian timballo or “drum”. The dish is more about the shape than the actual ingredients. It’s sometimes made with rice or pasta or eggplant and it comes out kind of like a savory cake. They make excellent picnic or potluck food, and fortunately for me, they translate well to a low-carb recipe.This Low Carb Zucchini Timbale is simple, but it does take a little time to put together, so plan accordingly.
Here are a few tips to make sure this recipe comes out right;
- to make the slicing of the zucchini easier use a mandolin slicer (I like this one by OXO) if you’ve got one.
- Don’t skip the salting step. There’s a lot of water in zucchini so you want to leach out as much as you can or your timbale will have a hard time staying together.
- If you are using homemade marinara, cook it down until it’s very thick before using it. Pre-made jarred sauce should be fine as is.
- a 2-quart souffle dish is best for this recipe, but any straight sided dish will work (such as a deep cake pan).
Looking for more low-carb recipes? Check these out!
Low Carb Layered Zucchini Timbale
Timbale or timballo means drum in Italian, and basically just refers to the shape of the dish. You could do this with eggplant instead of zucchini, and you could certainly add in some cooked Italian sausage for more protein. This recipe is not difficult, but it does take a little time to put together, but once cooked it's an easy meal to eat all week.
This recipe has been loosely adapted from a recipe in Cucina Fresca, a cookbook from 1987 that is one of my favorites.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch soufflé dish or cake pan with tall sides. Line the bottom with parchment paper and set aside.
- Lay the zucchini slices out on a baking tray and sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw some of the water out. Pat the zucchini dry with paper towels. Mix together the almond flour and 1/3 cup of the grated Parmesan with the salt and pepper in a shallow dish and dredge the zucchini slices in the mixture.
- Heat a ¼ inch of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and fry the zucchini slices in batches and removing to drain on paper towels. Note: You may need to wipe out the pan and add fresh oil every couple of batches since some of the breading will remain in the skillet and begin to burn
- Line the bottom of the prepared soufflé dish with the cooked zucchini in a slightly overlapping fashion so that the entire bottom is covered. Then with more slices, line the sides of the dish with the zucchini draped vertically along the sides. The ends should lay over the sides of the dish.
Next, spoon about ¼ cup of marinara into the bottom of the dish, spreading evenly over the zucchini. Top with a sprinkle of the remaining Parmesan and a third of the mozzarella. Add another layer of zucchini and repeat. The last layer should be zucchini, sauce and Parmesan but no Mozzarella.
Using a thin bladed knife, poke lots of holes all the way through the timbale and then pour over the eggs, giving it a little jiggle to get down through the layers. Fold the zucchini flaps over the dish and then bake for 40 minutes or until the eggs are set and dish is bubbly. Let sit for 15 minutes before inverting onto a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tip: Not low carb? Substitute 1 cup of flour for the almond flour/parmesan mixture.