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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ready for more lasagna? How about one without pasta?

Traditionally, lasagna is made by layering pasta, cheese, and sauce, right?  Well, in my world, who says you have to always use pasta?  What I want to share with you today might take a little bit of work, (it is easy work) but the end product is delicious.  Have I ever steered you wrong?

So, this lasagna is made with slices of eggplant that I coat with a batter and brown first.  I will be also layering this with ricotta cheese mixed with fresh spinach, and of course....sauce.  You can make this vegetarian if you use a meatless sauce.  And, if you don't like eggplant, you can slice zucchini up lengthwise.  Don't cook it, though.  When it is built in the layers and cooking in the oven, it will cook just enough.


I start by making the batter.  It is a combination of flour, water, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and some paprika.  If it is too thick, just add a bit of water until you get the right consistency.  You want it to be like pancake batter...thick enough to coat each piece of eggplant.  Now, I  peel and slice 2 small eggplant.  I cut the larger slices in half, so that they are all about the same size.

In a large fry pan, I heat up some olive oil.  I get into a rhythm of dusting the eggplant pieces with flour, coating the eggplant in the batter, and placing it in the oil to brown.  When they are done, I place them on paper towels to drain the excess oil.  This is the only labor-intensive part of this meal, so hang in there!

When the eggplant is all cooked, I mix up the ricotta cheese.  I add 2 small cloves of garlic, pressed, Parmesan cheese, some fresh ground black pepper, parsley, chopped fresh spinach, about 1/2 cup of sour cream, and just a sprinkle of onion powder (I try to add enough so that I can smell it)

The last ingredient to make is the sauce.  Here you can pretty much do whatever you like, either use your favorite jar of sauce, or home made sauce.  Make sure you have plenty of sauce on hand, though.  You'll need it for serving.  I have found a really good sauce made by Barilla, so to that I like to add some finely chopped carrots.  For a change, tonight I poured a jar of Barilla 3 cheese sauce in my blender and added about 2 cups of small carrots.   The flavor was amazing.

You are now going to layer this, starting with sauce on the bottom, then eggplant, cheese, and sauce.  I also spread some shredded mozzarella cheese over the ricotta.  Repeat these layers until you have either used up the eggplant, or the lasagna has just gotten way too tall!  I like to try to end with the eggplant on top.  I spoon on the rest of the sauce over spoonfuls of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.  When I cut and serve it, I like to spoon some sauce over the individual pieces.

This cooked for about 35-40 minutes due to the fact that it was so tall.  Before I served it, I added some grated mozzarella cheese and popped it under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

I have to tell you.... this tastes so good, that you don't miss the pasta!   I really hope you take the time to make this.  Sometimes, I will cook the eggplant this way, and instead of layering it in a lasagna, I serve it as an appetizer with a dish of marinara sauce for dipping.  Arrange all the pieces of cooked eggplant on a platter and sprinkle with Romano cheese.   It looks amazing and tastes even better.  A really unique appetizer --  Enjoy...

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