I'm a big fan of silver linings. In my early twenties, I worked for a really dreadful company, but I turned many coworker relationships into true friendships. On a business visit to the company's Hong Kong office, I finally put a face to Katie's name - she's one of the most positive, intelligent, and earnest people I've ever met. She and some of the other American girls in the office snuck me out for a long lunch, embracing the pure humidity that is Hong Kong and laughing over soup dumplings.
Mmm. Soup dumplings.
This post isn't about soup dumplings.
Now a resident of London, Katie tweeted awhile ago looking for an "aubergine" lasagna. I directed her initially to the ultra delicious Skinnytaste eggplant rollatini recipe that I adore, but I got inspired to create one for her.
The rollatini are thinly sliced eggplant filled with a spinach ricotta mix. I'm a lasagna traditionalist at heart and love plain ol' pasta sheets with fresh red sauce and mozzarella. This lasagna? It mixes both.
For the layers, I used 4 sheets of no boil lasagna noodles and one eggplant sliced thin on a mandoline (about 12 - 15 slices total). I started off heavily salting the eggplant to draw out some of the bitterness - rinse them really well before you actually start cooking!
I'm going to get this out of the way now and cop to the fact that I skipped a crucial step - I didn't pre-roast the eggplant. Doing this again, I'd pop them in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes to start cooking. Tant pis.
On to the fillings!
Filling #1: ricotta, spinach, Italian sausage, an egg. I cooked down a box of fresh baby spinach since I prefer it to frozen spinach, but go with what makes you happy. I took two Italian sausages out of the casings, browned them, and drained off the excess grease. Mix everything after the sausage cools down a bit and season with salt and pepper.
Filling #2: tomato sauce from scratch. I mince fresh garlic, dice an onion, soften both in oil with whatever spices you want (basil and oregano are excellent choices), pour in a can of crushed tomatoes, and simmer on low until some of the liquid evaporates.
Then, as with all lasagnas, you start to layer all the deliciousness.
I did eggplant slices on the bottom and the top and nestled the pasta sheets in the middle. No Boil lasagna noodles are my least favorite lasagna noodle option, but they were in the pantry. The thing to know about them is that they really need liquid around them in order to soften, thus why I put them them smack dab in the middle of the action.
I topped it with slices of fresh mozzarella, then baked it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
It is not pretty. But it is DELICIOUS.
It's cheesy, it's full of veggies, and it has all of the lasagna flavor and texture you want. You could make any number of tweaks to this. Don't like eggplant? Swap it with zucchini, or embrace the carbs and use pasta. Don't eat meat? Leave out the sausage. Relatively speaking, this was light on meat and light on carbs and even after a second helping, I felt full and satisfied but not overstuffed.
The number one this recipe was missing was the ability to clink drinks with Katie before we dug in! I hope the recipe she inspired lives up to her extremely well-traveled taste buds!