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Eggplant Lasagna

Today is National Lasagna Day! For years, I have made my own pasta-free version of lasagna- Eggplant Lasagna- kind of a lasagna/rollatini mashup if you will. Many have fought me on this concept. "It's not lasagna without pasta!" And then they try it. I promise you, the meatiness of the eggplant holds up as a noodle substitute. The multiple layers of sauce, cheese and eggplant grow in flavor as they sit, much like a traditional lasagna. I do not by any means label this as a "healthy" version of the dish, as there is a ridiculous amount of olive oil and cheese, but it does provide a delicious carb-free alternative.

Ingredients:

-2 large eggplants

-Lots of olive oil

-1.5 lb of ground beef

-1 vidalia onion, chopped

-3 tbsp olive oil

-1 small can of tomato paste

-1/2 cup of red wine (plus more for drinking)

-1/2 can beef broth or stock

-2 tbsp fresh parsley

-1/2 tsp sugar

-28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

-15 oz. container of whole milk ricotta cheese

-1/4 cup dried basil

-2 large eggs

-2 garlic cloves

-Salt

-Fresh ground pepper

-1 bag of shredded whole milk mozzarella

Directions:

1. Place oven on broiler setting. Slice eggplants thinly from top to bottom, about an 1/8 inch thick. These will be your lasagna "noodles." Lay flat on cookie sheet. Completely douse in olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Place under broiler for 4 minutes. Remove from oven, flip eggplant pieces, recover in olive oil and resprinkle with salt and pepper. Return to broiler for another 4 minutes, or until eggplant is transparent and nearly falling apart. Place on a paper towel lined plate. Cover with another layer of paper towels to absorb some of the oil. Repeat process until all eggplant is cooked.

2. To make the meat sauce, brown ground beef in a frying pan until almost fully cooked. Drain off the fat and set meat aside. In the same skillet, cook onion and garlic in 3 tbsp of olive oil until soft. Add meat, tomato paste, red wine, beef stock, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. If it looks dry, add more stock.

3. While meat sauce is cooking, make tomato sauce. Place can of whole peeled tomatoes, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil into food processor. Pulse til smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. In a small bowl, mix ricotta cheese, dried basil, 2 eggs, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp pepper til smooth.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover the bottom of a 13x9 baking pan with half the tomato sauce. Top with 1/3 of the eggplant, as you would with lasagna noodles. Layer 1/2 the ricotta cheese mixture on top, followed by 1/2 the meat sauce. Top with 1/3 of the eggplant, second half of ricotta mixture, second half of meat sauce, last of eggplant. Cover with shredded mozzarella. Bake 15-20 minutes.

6. Remove from oven. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving.