As I’ve mentioned, giving up pasta wasn’t too tough on me when switching to a Ketogenic lifestyle…it was giving up all the stuff that GOES with pasta: sauces, cheese, spices, meatballs… I’ve tried a few “keto” pasta alternatives and they just didn’t do it for me. When I first started out, my favorite substitute was simple: zucchini or sometimes eggplant, depending on the recipe. This was one of my first easy keto recipes – a cheesy keto manicotti recipe that made me realize that I can easily do keto for the long haul.

I still make this Cheesy Zucchini Manicotti recipe regularly – my kids love it and the zucchini mimics pasta so well, the flavors of the sauce, meat and spices come through perfectly. It’s hearty, super delicious and meets the macros – win, win, win! As with so many keto pasta alternative recipes, this one is another that’s great for meal prep and tastes even better the next day.

UPDATE: now that I’ve been living the keto life for over four years, I have found some decent keto pasta alternatives like NuPasta and Palmini – which are pretty tasty but I still prefer this keto manicotti recipe with zucchini. However, if you looking for a keto lasagne recipe – Palmini is the way to go. NuPasta is my go-to alternative for noodles, and it works perfectly with bolognese and tomato-based sauces or pesto.


Cheesy Zucchini Manicotti

You’ll never remember that the zucchini is in this recipe to replace pasta — the flavors come through and all the cheesy goodness takes center stage!
Course dinner
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pasta
Servings 8 servings
Calories 345kcal


  • 4 whole zucchini squash, sliced lengthwise about 1/8″ – 1/4″ in thickness I prefer to use a mandoline for even slices
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cups no sugar added marinara sauce I like Rao’s
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 – 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter


  • Preheat over to 350 degrees. 
  • Spray an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with oil and set aside.
  • Heat olive oil and butter in skillet over medium heat and add minced garlic. When garlic is soft, add ground beef, pepper, salt, 1 tsp basil, 1/2 of oregano and 1/2 of parsley, and crushed red pepper flakes, if using.
  • Brown beef until cooked through and add marinara sauce. Lower to simmer, cover and let simmer while you prepare the zucchini and filling. 
  • In a medium bowl, combine egg, ricotta and parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and remaining spices and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  • Coat the bottom of the prepared dish with 1/2 cup of meatsauce.
  • Place about 1 tbsp of cheese mixture at the end of a zucchini “sheet” and roll loosely. Place seam side down in prepared dish. Repeat with remaining zucchini sheets and cheese. Arrange zucchini rolls close together, but not too tightly. 
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella over rolls evenly.
  • Pour remaining sauce over rolls and shredded cheese. 
  • Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. 
  • Place dish in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes. 


Calories: 345kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 883mg | Potassium: 705mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 834IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 267mg | Iron: 3mg

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