noodle-less eggplant lasagna

Before we get into the specifics of this to-die-for  (I just realized this is funny, because the first time I made it, I sliced off a piece of my thumb on a mandoline. Now, I wear cut-resistant gloves.) recipe, know that as it will appear below, it is not for the strict of cavemen. That is why in addition to the “vegetables” category, it has also been added to the “treats” category. Note, however, that the recipe is easily modifiable to pure paleo by removing all the dairy and is excellent that way too. It is also much simpler and cheaper to make that way. But, since I made it for a special occasion–a friend of mine moving out of town–I went all out. And, for full effect, every once in a while, you should too…

equipment:

  • mandoline, set to about 1/4″ thick slices. If you don’t have a mandoline, just slice the vegetables lengthwise as thin as you can. It works just as well, it’s just quicker and more precise with the mandoline.
  • 2 baking sheets, as big as you have. These will be used to pre-cook the vegetables so the lasagna doesn’t come out soggy
  • 15 x 10 x 2 baking dish or something with a similar volume
  • blender, optional. You could just use tomato puree and not add fresh tomatoes to simplify.
  • large saucepan

ingredients:

  • 3 lbs Chinese eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/4″  thick slices. If Chinese eggplant is unavailable, use regular eggplant, but try to find narrow ones. They will be easier to slice.
  • 1.5 lbs zucchini squash, peeled and sliced into 1/4 ” thick slices.
  • 28 oz can of whole tomatoes preferably with no or very little salt, I like Muir Glen or Hunts no salt added
  • 1 small can tomato paste or 2 tablespoons Amore tomato paste in the tube
  • 1/2 lb fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves, optional
  • 1/2 cup white wine for cooking
  • 1.5 lbs Calabro whole milk or part skim Ricotta cheese. If Calabro is unavailable (it’s sold at Whole Foods), just buy whatever. Nothing else even comes close. You could also try cottage cheese.
  • 1 lb Sorrento fresh mozzarella or Kraft part skim.
  • about 6 oz of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
  • 6 oz baby spinach, optional
  • fresh basil

 instructions:

tomato sauce, can be made any time in advance

  1. Combine canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and fresh tomatoes in a blender until well pureed. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until almost translucent. Add garlic and bay leaves and sautee until garlic is fragrant and translucent. Add white wine and allow the alcohol to burn off, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato mixture and simmer over low heat for as long as you like depending on your time constraints.

Note: One of the keys to this recipe is removing moisture from the eggplant so that the lasagna doesn’t turn into mush when it bakes. I have included two methods below.

eggplant and zucchini method 1

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Slice eggplant and zucchini and arrange as flatly as possible on baking sheets. If your baking sheets are not non-stick, don’t forget to grease them before.
  3. Put eggplant in oven until lightly brown. About 15 minutes

eggplant and zucchini method 2

  1. Slice eggplant and zucchini and place one layer in a large colander. Salt evenly and then add another layer and salt again until you can fit it all. Weigh down the slices with a couple of beers and wait two to three hours for the eggplant to drain. Rub off any excess salt when you’re done.

the lasagna

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Arrange moisture-free eggplant and zucchini in a single layer at the bottom of the baking dish, making sure there is some overlap of the slices.
  3. Take about 1/3 of the sauce and spread it over the eggplant and zucchini layer. The thickness of the sauce layer should be similar to that of a pizza, ehem, meatza.
  4. Spread 1/2 the ricotta on top of the tomato sauce in the same way. Do not use the ricotta on the top layer.
  5. If using fresh mozzarella, use about a third of the log, and break it into small pieces, arranging it casually on top of the ricotta and tomato layers.
  6. If you’re going to use spinach, perhaps instead of cheese, now would be the time to add it.
  7. Continue making layers of vegetables followed by the tomato sauce and cheeses and spinach. The prescribed quantity of eggplant and zucchini yielded 3 layers in the baking dish I used. It may be more or fewer depending on the thickness of your slices and size of baking dish. Whatever the case, go with the flow.
  8. On the final layer, above the previous layer of eggplant, layer tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, and the grated parmesan.
  9. Place in oven and cook until the cheese on top is melty and bubbly, 20-30 minutes.
  10. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. If there is any excess moisture, this cooling period will also help the lasagna reabsorb some of it.
  11. Cut, serve, and garnish with basil.

peeled chinese eggplantChinese eggplant

slicing eggplantHaley carefully cutting zucchini on the mandoline with gloves

layering the eggplant for noodle-less eggplant lasagnaThe layers

eggplant lasagna pre ovenPre-oven

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