Being of Italian descent (a proud 25% thank you very much) I have cravings for all things topped with tomato or alfredo sauce and cheese. Most of the time, unfortunately for me, these "things" include a variety of pastas which are like ingesting a little poison for my gluten intolerant digestive system. All that said...when I saw my good friend, Rachael Ray, prepare Eggplant Lasagna on her daily "What's for dinner tonight" segment, I knew I had to try it!
I have never worked with eggplant before and may or may not have tasted it previously, but I set out to my favorite market and picked up a shiny little eggplant at $0.82. This afternoon, I printed out Rachael's recipe and went to town...with a few tweaks of my own of course. These are noted here as well as in the list of ingredients:
-instead of preparing the tomato sauce from scratch I used my favorite variety of jar sauce (which I purchase only when on sale for $1.00.) If you choose to do the same, you can eliminate the EVOO, onion, garlic, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper.
-Also, keep in mind that the precise layering of ingredients is not a science. Layer as you desire.
4 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, such as San Marzano
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and ground black pepper
5 to 6 leaves fresh basil, torn (-I didn't have fresh basil on hand so I just sprinkled dry basil on the top of the dish for garnish.)
4 medium eggplants, thinly sliced (-Instead of 4 medium eggplant, I used only one and made an 8x8 casserole dish full.)
2 cups ricotta cheese (-my favorite store--Aldi--did not have ricotta cheese for sale, so I substitued cottage cheese and it worked wonderfully. And it was low fat to boot!)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
2 egg yolks (-1 whole egg worked fine in place of the 2 egg yolks. )
2 1-pound balls smoked fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Basil, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375ºF and preheat a grill to medium-high.
Place a medium pot over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and garlic to the pan, and cook until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the pan and break them up with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the cinnamon stick, salt, pepper and the basil to the pan, and simmer the sauce until thickened and aromatic, about 10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, brush the eggplant slices with the remaining EVOO and grill them until marked and tender, about 5 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano and egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Reserve.
When everything is ready, spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a baking dish. Top with a layer of eggplant slices and spread half of the ricotta mixture over the eggplant. Top with another layer of eggplant and layer one third of the mozzarella over the eggplant. Top with some sauce and then more eggplant. Spread the remaining half of the ricotta mixture and top with another layer of eggplant. Top with another third of the mozzarella and sauce, and then with the remaining eggplant. Scatter the remaining mozzarella over top and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese. Transfer the casserole to a baking sheet (in case it bubbles over) and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve.