I loooooooovvvvveee lasagna! I just don’t (always) love all the carbs that come with it.
Lasagna reminds me of my childhood, and I remember getting all giddy with excitement every time my mother would make it! It was always such a treat! But, even though it’s one of my favourite comfort foods, it’s not a dish I find myself eating a lot now because it can be so heavy. I mean, the point of a good lasagna is layers and layers of ooey gooey, cheesy goodness, right?! However, if I ate it too often, my waistline would surely expand!
Solution: eggplant lasagna. Well, partial solution. This is a three cheese eggplant lasagna, after all, and I’m not about to suggest it’s a calorie-free dish! But, if you can spare some of the calories by cutting the carbs, then why not?! (Although, between us, if you did want the carbs, you could always swap the eggplant for lasagna noodles to make a regular lasagna 😉 )
Oh, and not to mention that, since my recipe doesn’t include breadcrumbs, it’s gluten-free! And to counterbalance some of the calories from the cheese, there’s fibre added from the spinach and nutrients from the mushrooms! On the issue of fibre, I like to leave the skin on the eggplant, rather than peeling it off. I like the texture and it’s better for you, but it’s a matter of personal preference.
That’s What Cheese Said
So, what cheese to use for your eggplant lasagna? Again, a matter of personal preference. But, the 2 cheeses I can’t live without for an eggplant lasagna (or any lasagna, for that matter) are: mozzarella and ricotta cheese.
First, the mozzarella. The rule of thumb is usually ‘fresh is best’, but for eggplant lasagna, I prefer low-moisture mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella has a much higher water content and may make the dish too moist. When coupled with the water released from the eggplant and the mushrooms, you may end up with a big, soupy mess! While I love me some fresh mozza for salads and crostini, I opted for the low-moisture variety here because it’s better for baking. Also, I like to buy the balls of mozzarella and cut into rounds, rather than grate the large blocks (just looks prettier).
Next, I love the texture and taste of ricotta in an eggplant lasagna – there’s no substitute. Third, I opted for freshly grated grana padano. I happen to like it slightly better than parmigiano reggiano, it’s more aged counterpart. But either way, avoid the pre-grated crap you find at the grocery store (which may contain sawdust – no lie!). Get the real stuff and grate it, yourself!
To Cover or Not to Cover, That is the Question
Okay, last little note before I move on to the actual recipe: the method of baking the eggplant lasagna. Some recipes call for covering with aluminium foil, and some don’t. When I made this over the weekend, I actually made 2 eggplant lasagnas…you know, in the name of “research”. I covered one eggplant lasagna while baking and left the other uncovered. The results definitely varied, and it’s better to go with foil, since the eggplant becomes much softer in texture. The uncovered eggplant lasagna, while equally delicious, was more firm and dry.
Okay, now that I’ve rambled on about the components of this eggplant lasagna for long enough, here’s the recipe. And scroll to the bottom for more pictures, as always (but warning: I guarantee they’re going to make you hungry!).
Three Cheese Eggplant Lasagna
- 2 large eggplants cut into 1/4" slices lengthwise
- 1.10 lbs. ground turkey (about 0.5 kg), thawed
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced finely
- 8 oz. white button or cremini mushrooms chopped
- 1/2 sprig fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano finely chopped
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme remove leaves from stem and discard the stems
- 2 scallions chopped
- 1 796mL can diced tomatoes
- 1 650mL jar tomato sauce
- 5 oz frozen spinach
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grana padano cheese grated finely
- 1 1/2 260g low-moisture mozzarella balls cut into 1/8" slices
- 3 eggs
- olive oil
- kosher or sea salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- Add about 2 tbsp. of olive oil to a large sauce on medium-high heat. Brown room temperature ground turkey, and cook all the way through. Once cooked, remove all but 2/3 of the fat drippings from the sauce pot.
- Add onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme, oregano, scallions, sugar, salt and black pepper to taste to the ground turkey and cover pot. Let cook on medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion, celery and mushrooms become visibly softer.
- Add diced tomatoes, jar of tomato sauce, spinach, and any salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil on high heat, and then reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- While your sauce is simmering, pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cut eggplant into 1/4" slices lengthwise. Arrange on a baking sheet that has been oiled. Sprinkle salt and black pepper on top of eggplant and drizzle generously with olive oil. Do this to both sides.
- Roast eggplant in oven for about 15 minutes, flipping half way through. Oven temperatures may vary, so keep an eye on your eggplant to ensure the slices don't become overcooked.
- Remove eggplant from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix ricotta cheese, grana padano and eggs.
- Once your sauce is done cooking, remove from heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. You can then begin assembling your eggplant lasagna. Start by adding a layer of meat sauce to the bottom of a large baking dish. Layer eggplant, ricotta cheese mixture, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and then repeat.
- Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Optional: you can remove the foil for the last 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven, let cool for about 10 minutes, serve and enjoy!