Leek lasagna is a no pasta lasagna recipe where lasagna noodles are subbed with boiled leeks. Creamy bechamel and smoked ham bits, along with a crunchy parmesan top, wonderfully complement the flavour of the leeks. Leek lasagne are friendly to low carb eaters and easy to adapt into a gluten free meal.
An alternative lasagna recipe
No-pasta lasagne may sound like a heresy, especially coming from an Italian. The truth is, this leek lasagna recipe was actually inspired by an Italian grandma. A true, authentic Italian grandma – my husband’s nonna. A few years ago, while we were visiting her during our summer holidays, she whipped up a wonderful dish made with a layer of boiled unrolled leeks topped with bechamel and ground pancetta. It was made as a single layer, and I loved it. I had never before encountered “unrolled” leeks. She had boiled the leeks, cut them on the side and just rolled them out to make them into a sort of noodle sheet.
It goes without saying that I pictured that dish made into several layers, to create a noodle free lasagna. A leek lasagna! I didn’t want to make it with bolognese sauce, though. Since it was not quite the original thing, I could as well keep being creative and replicate the flavours of her dish. Bechamel and meat. And parmesan, because you can’t call it lasagna if it’s not topped with a crunchy layer of melted and browned Parmigiano!
Low carb lasagna without pasta
While my husband’s grandma just chose to use leeks for no other reason than the fact that she has access to great fresh veggies, more and more people choose to lower their carbohydrate intake in their diets. If you, like me, grew up following an Italian eating regime, you’ll know how difficult it might be to let go of your pasta fix.
A great alternative to regular pasta in a dish like lasagna can be sliced vegetables. There are a lot of paleo lasagna recipes that sub the lasagna sheets with slices of various veggies. Eggplant lasagna is probably the most popular, being also fairly similar to another layered Italian dish: melanzane alla parmigiana. Zucchini lasagna is another favourite. Zucchini are, in fact, a quite a popular item used in pasta dishes when pasta needs to be excluded. Since vegetable spiralizers came around, zoodles became the next best thing.
Surprisingly, leeks are not as popular in low carb lasagne. Yet they possess the perfect texture to work as great alternative pasta sheets. Leeks have a wonderful flavour. I love them. I particularly adore them as pizza topping, like in this pizza bianca with leeks and mascarpone. (Yes, pizza. You know I’m Italian.) In the winter, a creamy potato and leek soup will always make me happy. Furthermore, I just adore using leeks as filling for shortcrust savoury pies.
How to make leek lasagna
Leek lasagna is made of layers of leek sheets filled with bechamel, shredded or diced ham, and grated parmesan. This is an excellent recipe to get rid of leftover ham. You can use either diced or sliced ham – I had some Swedish smoked ham that was originally sliced, so I just cut it into smaller pieces to best fill my leek lasagna. In the original recipe my husband’s grandma had used minced pancetta, so even a fine dice is a great option.
No pasta lasagna sheets with leeks
To make leek lasagne you need to prepare the leeks by cleaning and boiling them. I usually trim off the thicker dark green part and save the light green and white section, the one that is tightly wrapped around the core and doesn’t open up on the top. Chop off as well the root end. Even trimmed, leeks are too long to fit my largest pot so I usually cut them in 2 or 3 parts, generally 10 cm long. Place all your leek cylinders in a pot, fill it with enough water to cover the leeks and set to boil. Leeks float, so don’t worry if some of them will come to the surface. Bring the water to boil, and let the leeks simmer for about 20 minutes. They will get soft enough to perfectly work as pasta sheets in your leek lasagna.
Drain the water and let the leeks cool enough so you’re able to handle them. Cut them lengthwise and roll them out. Leeks are layered, so you can get 2-3 “leek noodles” per cylinder, depending on the thickness of each leek. I usually go with two leek layers per “sheet”. Due to their texture, leeks can be difficult to slice if you use leek layers that are too thick in your lasagna.
How to assemble the leek lasagna
Use a casserole dish and remember to spread some bechamel on the bottom to create some moisture and prevent the bottom leek layer from sticking to the casserole. Lay out the leek sheets to evenly cover the whole surface. Spread an even layer of bechamel all over the leek layer, then distribute about 1/3 of the ham and sprinkle some parmesan all over. Repeat, until the casserole dish is filled, just like in a regular lasagna. With this recipe I am usually making 4 layers of leek sheets with 3 layers of filling in between those. On the top layer I just spread some bechamel to even out the dish and lock in all the moisture. Reserve a more generous parmesan sprinkle to the top layer.
Bake the leek lasagna at 200°C for 30 minutes total, switching to broil halfway through to ensure the parmesan on top gets nicely browned and creates the classic lasagna finish on the top. That is one of my favourite things about baked dishes whenever parmesan is involved. You may heard me rave about this in my baked pasta with broccoli recipe.
How to make leek lasagna gluten free
Having no pasta, this leek lasagna is easy to adapt into a great gluten free dish. Despite being fairly low carb – way lower than regular lasagna, of course – this recipe is not grain free as it is. To make bechamel you need to use wheat flour. In order to make a gluten free leek lasagna you need to sub this ingredient with a gluten free alternative. Flour is used as a thickener, so any gluten free flour or starch of choice will do the trick. Please notice that substitution may not be 1:1, so be ready to tweak the bechamel recipe to your needs.
Leek lasagna tips
- This is a fantastic meal prep option. Leek lasagna is great to make ahead, divide into lunch boxes and re-heat in the microwave. Store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Because of their texture, leeks can be difficult to cut when going against their fibre. For better portioning, I recommend laying out the leek sheets in the same direction as much as possible when assembing the leek lasagna.
- Not a fan of ham? Cooked turkey or pancetta are great alternatives. If you’re feeling more adventurous, a fantastic variation is with taco meat: fried ground beef with taco seasoning. Sub the beef for your favourite choice of meat replacement (soy, quorn, etc.) and you can make a vegetarian leek lasagna.
Leek lasagna with smoked ham and bechamel
A no-pasta lasagna recipe where leeks are used instead of lasagne noodles. A layered dish of cooked leek sheets, bechamel, smoked ham and a crunchy parmesan top. An alternative to classic lasagna, low carb friendly and easy to make gluten free too.
- 2 leeks (medium-large)
- 650 ml milk
- 60 g flour
- 40 g butter
- 300 g smoked ham
- 80 g grated parmesan
- salt and nutmeg to taste
Clean the leeks by trimming off the leafy dark green part and the root end; saving the light green to white part of the vegetable. Cut the leeks into 2-3 cylinders of about 10 cm.
Add the leek pieces to a pot and fill with water until the leeks are covered. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. When the leeks have cooked through and are soft, drain the water and let the leeks cool until easy to handle.
While the leeks are cooking, make the bechamel. Add the flour to a saucepan and set it on medium-high heat. Lightly toast the flour for a couple of minutes, then add the butter. Stir with a whisk to melt the butter, it will combine with the flour into a roux. When all the butter has melted, add the cold milk in one go. Keep whisking, the roux will melt as the milk warms. Bring to a boil, it will thicken. Add a sprinkle of salt and a pinch of nutmeg to taste.
When the leeks are cool enough to handle, cut them lengthwise and "unroll". Leeks are layered - an optimal thicness for a single leek sheet is 2 leek layers.
Dice, slice, or mince the ham, according to your preference. I used sliced smoked ham which I have cut into smaller bits.
Spread a thin layer of bechamel over the bottom of a casserole dish and cover with leek sheets as if making regular lasagna with pasta sheets. Spread bechamel all over the leek layer evenly. Add 1/3 of the ham and sprinkle some parmesan all over. Repeat this procedure until the casserole dish is filled with leek layers alternated by bechamel and ham filling. Depending on the size of the leeks you should be able to get 3 or 4 layers.
Lay out the last layer of leek sheets on the top and spread the last of the bechamel all over, in order to lock the moisture in. Add a more generous amount of parmesan to the top layer, to create a crunchy top finish.
Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, switch the oven settings to broil to ensure the top part will brown. For easier cutting, let the leek lasagna set for 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven.
Because of their texture, leeks can be difficult to cut when going against their fibre. For better portioning, I recommend laying out the leek sheets in the same direction as much as possible when assembing the leek lasagna.
This recipe was originally posted on this blog in September 2015 and it was updated in June 2019.