We had some friends over for dinner the other weekend and since we have some vegetarians in the group I decided to make a vegetarian main dish. We had a lot eggplant (aka aubergine) in the garden including a large black beauty and a Japanese eggplant. So, I wanted to incorporate eggplant into a main dish. One meal that kept popping up was an eggplant lasagna. I decided to go with an eggplant/spinach lasagna (recipe below). First, as with any eggplant dish, I sliced and salted the eggplant for about 30 min prior to following the recipe.
I ended up preheating the oven to 350F instead of 375F because I was also baking another dish that required the lower tempterature. Also, the baking dish I wanted to use tolerates up to 350F and I didn’t want to push the envelope (probably not worth having a possible cracking situation on our hands!).
The lasagna noodles are cooked first by bringing a pot of water to boiling. Next, add the noodles and cook for 7-8 minutes, until slightly cooked but still firm. I had to maneuver my noodles to fit inside the pot I used. Next time, I will definitely use a larger pot! After boiling, drain noodles and set aside.
Next, you’ll want to cook the veggies that you are going to put into the lasagna. At this point, I added additional ingredients that are not listed in the online recipe. Below, you’ll see a photograph of the chopped eggplant (I used 1 large black beauty, and 1 small-ish Japanese eggplant), some onion (1/2 cup) and mushrooms (1/2 cup), garlic (3 cloves), as well as thawed and drained frozen spinach (1 1/2 cups).
Heat ~2T olive oil in a skillet and add the eggplant, onion (if you want it), and garlic. Cook for about 7-8 min or until the eggplant is partially cooked. The smaller the pieces of eggplant, the quicker it will cook. I like adding onion to most of my dishes because it adds some extra flavor to the meal.
Pour tomato sauce (the large jar, ~28 oz) over the cooked vegetables. I like using an Italian-flavored or mushroom-flavored sauce for most of my pasta dishes. Continue to cook eggplant for an additional 10 or so minutes or until the eggplant is tender.
While the eggplant mixture was simmering, I put together the cheese mixture in a medium-sized bowl. The recipe calls for cottage cheese, but I have never made lasagna with cottage cheese and I do not care for it, so I ended up doubling the amount of ricotta cheese instead. To the bowl, add 2 cups ricotta, 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, some salt and pepper (I tend to add more pepper than what recipes call for), and 1 egg. Mix well and then add the spinach to the cheese mixture and thoroughly mix.
Next up: layering the noodles, sauce, and cheese to prepare the lasagna! Now, I used the largest baking dish that I had, but it is not very tall and that was unfortunate. I had too much filling and not enough space. I saved the leftover mixtures for future recipes.
Spread a thin layer of the sauce mixture on the bottom of the pan. Next time, I will reserve some of the tomato sauce in the jar and use that as the bottom layer. Having the veggies on the bottom seemed a little strange to me. Place 4 noodles on top and layer as necessary.
Next, add 1/3 of the tomato mixture, then 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Repeat by layering noodles, sauce, and cheese twice more. Lastly, sprinkle mozzarella cheese. I mentioned earlier that my dish was not deep enough, so I actually ended up with noodles on top and adding the mozzarella cheese on top of that. I do not recommend ending with noodles – the lasagna got a little crispy after baking.
Bake for 45 min to 1 hr or until the ricotta cheese mixture sets and the cheese is lightly browned. Unfortunately, I do not have a final photograph, but the lasagna turned out really well! The noodles on top were slightly crispy, but that actually helped to keep the lasagna together while cutting pieces. My vegetarians really enjoyed the dish and even the carnivores were happy 🙂