With the Summer produce season just beginning, Ellie and I decided to try our hand at developing an Eggplant Lasagna. After a couple hours of deliberation by text and phone, we settled on a plan. I reached out to several local farmers but ended up finding the tomatoes at Ali’s Organics in LaVerkin. I used a medley of eccentrically named Heirloom tomatoes colored green (ripe when green), yellow, pink and red, with names such as Porkchop, Chocolate Stripes, and Delicious to make the sauce. We used these tomatoes to make the sauce. See the recipe for Garden tomato sauce. You don’t have to get these kinds. Use what you can find. That makes it fun! What makes this lasagna delicious is the fresh seasonal produce. Take what you can find from a good gardener and let the magic unfold. Here’s what you’ll need:
3 Large Eggplants
1 large garden fresh or heirloom tomato
2-3 cups of Garden Tomato Sauce (See recipe)
1 package of Italian Sausage links (Use hot if you like. Non-cased would work just as well.)
1 package of Fresh Mozzarella
¾ of a cup of grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup of Ricotta Cheese
3 TBSP of Chopped Fresh Basil
2 TBSP of Chopped Fresh Oregano
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cut the eggplant into rounds ½ inch thick. Arrange a baking tray with 2 layers of paper towels and season the eggplants aggressively with salt. Leave for 45min-1hr. This will draw the water from the eggplant leading to a better result. Grill or pan fry the sausage links and add to the tomato sauce. Be sure to caramelize them nicely. Rinse the salt from and pat the Eggplant dry. Proceed to fry them in a large skillet. It is important to do this in a very hot pan. You want to brown the eggplant. It shouldn’t take more than 1 minute per side if the pan is hot enough. Make sure to have a little oil in the pan between each batch. You could also cook them on the grill after lightly brushing each round with oil. That would add a nice smoky element without smoking up the house.
Using a cast iron skillet or the baking dish of your choice, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Next do a layer of eggplant followed by the ricotta cheese, basil, oregano, and some parmesan. Repeat with another layer. Depending on how much eggplant you have left, you can do another layer. After your final layer of eggplant, spoon the rest of the sauce. Layer with mozzarella followed by a layer of sliced tomato. Sprinkle with parmesan, basil, and oregano and bake for 20-30 minutes at 450 degrees.
After the initial bake, look to see if there is liquid. Pour out as much as you can without spilling the lasagna. Put under the broiler for another five minutes or until golden brown. It is extremely important to let it rest and set up otherwise it will be a mess. After 20 minutes at rest, serve with a little more parmesan and basil. Enjoy!