Okay, I am pretty excited to write this blog entry. As you know I just spent Thanksgiving weekend in Anchorage. Andrew’s family has been so supportive of my blog endeavors and they make me feel like part of the family every time we are together. I never thought I would be so lucky to feel like I have two families :) My families, Bosnian, Andrew’s, and our own trio with Teek, are one of the things I am most thankful for every day, especially thankful during the holiday season. Andrew’s sister even wanted to take a family portrait and would not think of taking the picture without me. Now that made me feel very special. Seriously, I am going to try to keep this post to a minimal sappy rating, but it’s hard when you feel so surrounded by love. What better way to repay them for their hospitality than to cook them a family-style italian meal???
Eggplant parmesan and lasagna. Two traditional Italian dishes that seem just a little too complex to make at home. Well after reading this post you will feel confident making your very own twist on these two favorites: Eggplant Parmesan Lasagna.
Although it takes some time to prepare the eggplant and assemble the lasagna, it will be worth it as soon as you have your first bite! This is a great, hearty, vegetarian-friendly dish. It is also a great way to introduce eggplant into your diet if you have not cooked with this produce before. Eggplants are low in fat and carbohydrates so they are a great alternative to the traditional lasagna noodles. You can also eliminate the panko crust of the eggplant if you want to minimize the carb-content of this meal further.
When you cook with eggplant, you want to soak it in a salt water bath for at least 30 minutes and then rinse the eggplant prior to preparing the vegetable. The salt water bath will help extract some of the natural bitterness of the eggplant.
I have also made this recipe by making individual eggplant parmesan “volcanoes” –coined by Andrew. For this variation, I stack the lasagna ingredients onto separated eggplant slices instead of layering into a baking dish–this makes for a pretty presentation and easy serving.
Typically I use fresh basil that I mince myself, but the grocery store in Anchorage was all out of the fresh herb so I substituted a basil herb blend. It was AMAZING. So flavorful and fresh tasting. I always ignored these herb-filled squeeze tubes in the past, but now I am a huge fan. The herbs stay fresh in the tube and they are already minced and ready to use. I call that a win-win.
We were all too hungry so I did not get a chance to snap a fancy picture of the final plated product. But trust me it tastes pretty darn delicious.
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
2 large eggplants
8 oz panko bread crumbs
3 T dried oregano
5 large eggs
2 x 24 oz jars red pasta sauce (I used roasted garlic tomato sauce)
15 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
3 T basil herb blend (I used Gourmet Garden brand, found in produce section)
16 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin (1/8 to 1/4 -inch thick)
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan, divided
- Slice off the stem from the eggplants. Cut eggplants into 1/4-inch thick circular slices. Place eggplant slices into a large mixing bowl, filled with salted water. (Note: add ~1 T salt to a mixing bowl full of water). Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450 F, arrange baking racks evenly in oven, and line 3 baking sheets with aluminum foil. (Note: if you do not have 3 baking sheets then you can prepare this section in steps)
- Prepare your dredging station: crack 4 of the eggs into a bowl and whisk to combine; on a large plate or pan, combine the panko bread crumbs and dried oregano.
- Prepare your ricotta filling: in a small mixing bowl combine ricotta, half the parmesan cheese, basil paste, and 1 egg. Set aside.
- Drain the water from the eggplant slices. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towel.
- Dip the eggplant slices one-by-one in the egg wash. Then coat both sides with the bread crumb-herb mixture. Transfer the eggplant slices to the baking sheets.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes; remove from oven flip over and bake an additional 10 minutes. The eggplant slices should be soft to the touch. Set aside and leave oven on. (Note: each baking sheet should be equivalent to one-layer of the lasagna; therefore, you should have enough for 3 layers)
- To assemble the lasagna: Spread 1/2 a jar of pasta sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish; layer eggplant slices to cover the bottom of the dish; spread half the ricotta mixture over the eggplant layer; top ricotta layer with half the mozzarella slices; spread remaining 1/2 jar of pasta sauce on top of the mozzarella. Repeat layering two more times. For the second eggplant layer do not add remaining mozzarella slices, reserve these for topping the lasagna. Sprinkle remaining half of parmesan cheese on top of the lasagna.
- Place lasagna in center rack of oven, reduce temperature to 350 F, and bake for 25 minutes.
- Set oven to broil (on high) for last 3-5 minutes of baking. The cheese should start to bubble and brown.
- Remove lasagna from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy warm!