Lasagna is one of those dishes that most people feel comfortable making because, frankly, it's pretty hard to mess up.
Cook some noodles, layer them with some cheese, sauce, and more cheese. How bad could it be, right?
My problem with some lasagna, though, is the noodles can be a bit too thick – unless you make them yourself. It's not like I don't use store bought noodles on occasion. I definitely do. And I will never turn it down if someone else makes it.
But the basic idea behind lasagna (layers of cheese and more cheese) can be done with all kinds of different things. Specifically, I think eggplant works really well instead of the thick noodles. You can layer them really easily – just like noodles – and the end result is almost like a big eggplant parmesan casserole.
Even if you're a serious carnivore, this dish is substantial enough to please everyone - vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
RECIPE: Eggplant Lasagna
The hardest part of this recipe is prepping the eggplant. Start by cutting off the ends of the eggplants and slice them about 1/4 inch thick.
Large eggplants like this can be a bit bitter if you were to use them as is. The way to solve this problem is to salt them to draw out some of the bitter liquid.
The way I do this is to layer my slices in a big colander, adding big pinches of kosher salt to each layer. Once I have all the slices in, I find a bowl that fits in the colander and fill it with water.
The bowl will press down the eggplant and help with the process.
Leave it like this for about 30 minutes.
After pressing your eggplants, wash them off really well in cold water. You don't want to bring all that salt to the lasagna.
Dry them off well with a paper towel and lay them out on two baking sheets. Drizzle them liberally with olive oil and bake them at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes per side.
They should be tender, but not scorched when they come out.
Let these cool while you work on the other pieces of the lasagna.
The easiest part of the lasagna is the sauce. I kept it really simple for this dish, which I recommend. Just stir together some tomato sauce with a few dried herbs. I really like herbs de Provence
in this dish. It goes great with eggplant.
Stir this together and set it aside until you need it!
For the ricotta filling, you need to start with some fresh spinach (you could use frozen in a pinch). Wash it well and trim off all the stems.
This photo was pre-trimming of the stems.
Dunk the spinach in boiling salted water for 20-30 seconds until it's just wilted. Remove it to a colander lined with paper towels to let it drain. Once it's cool enough to handle, you can squeeze out some of the liquid.
Roughly chop the spinach and add it to the other filling ingredients.
When you're ready to make the lasagna, add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of your 13x9 baking dish. Then add a layer of eggplant slices, more of your sauce, and 1/2 of the ricotta filling.
Add another layer of eggplant slices, more ricotta filling, more sauce, and a final layer of the eggplant slices.
Top the whole thing off with a bit more sauce and fresh mozzarella slices.
Cover this masterpiece with foil and bake it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Then uncover it and bake it for another 20 minutes.
The final product should be nice and browned on top and bubbling.
Definitely let this cool before serving it up. Get your hands on some good crusty bread to go with it and you'll be all set!Nick recommends this dish anytime you're trying to befriend a vegetarian. Check out his blog, Macheesmo and his Tablespoon profile.