The road to developing this recipe took several directions. Rich loves eggplant, especially in restaurants where they fry it – not something I usually do. Once or twice he had a dish that included eggplant slices rolled around ricotta and then baked with tomato sauce. We did that a few times before we decided that it was too much trouble to roll up the eggplant. Several times I made lasagna and added a layer of eggplant instead of one layer of noodles. Then I wondered what would happen if I totally replaced the lasagna noodles with eggplant. And thus, eggplant lasagna was born.
Warning: you really have to like eggplant to like this dish. Don’t try to pass it off as regular cheese lasagna to your kids or other picky eaters. It won’t work. The eggplant is delicious, but it is not easily disguisable as a noodle. I do not speak from experience as I have never been in the “sneak it in camp,” but trust me, it won’t work.
From The Cook’s Life
This is easy to double. It reheats well, and makes great leftovers.
2 large eggplants, or the equivalent amount of small ones
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided*
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
14 oz. crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce**
1 small can tomato paste
2-3 teaspoons dried basil or 6-10 fresh basil leaves, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Several dashes paprika
Several dashes cayenne
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
Several dashes salt
A few grinds of black pepper
Parmesan cheese for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease one or two baking sheets, depending on size.
Peel eggplant, if desired or if skins are thick or scarred. Cut eggplant into 1/4 inch slices, either lengthwise or crosswise, or both, if you are like me. I don’t like to use the part with the most seeds, as they can sometimes be bitter. Feel free to use the entire eggplant, if you like. Arrange eggplant slices touching, but not overlapping on lightly greased baking sheets. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until soft. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.
While eggplant is baking, mix ricotta, egg, 1 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl mix crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, garlic and spices to taste. Sauce will be thick.
Lightly grease an 11 by 7 inch or 9-inch square casserole. Cover bottom of casserole with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Cover sauce with one layer of eggplant. Dollop cheese mixture over the eggplant and gently spread it out. It doesn’t have to completely cover eggplant. Add about half of the remaining tomato sauce, and gently spread to cover cheese. Add remaining eggplant in a single layer and then cover with remaining sauce.
Sprinkle top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for about 35-40 minutes, or until bubbling around edges and brown on top. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to firm up. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
*You can adjust the ratio of mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese to suit your taste. This ratio makes a fairly stiff cheese layer, with lots of stringy mozzarella. If you like a creamier cheese layer, use less mozzarella.
**I like using plain tomatoes to control the salt and to tailor the spices to my tastes. Feel free to use already spiced tomato sauce.