Don’t curl your lip until you hear me out. Seriously.
A friend recently mentioned that eggplant could be used in a lasagne instead of the traditional flat pasta. For me, being diabetic, this concept would be a huge bonus in my enjoyment of Italian cuisine, so I decided to give it a go.
As with any lasagne, this is not an inexpensive project, running between $35-40 before any sides like garlic bread or salad. On the flip side, it will feed a goodly number of people.
I used my crock pot to test this dish, though you are welcome to use a conventional oven, baking at 350F for between 1-2 hours depending on the depth of the baking dish you choose.
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours on High
2 med eggplant, sliced
1 lb hamburger
12 oz tomato paste
20 oz crushed tomatoes, partially drained
24 oz tomato based spaghetti sauce of choice
2 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)
2 tsp onion powder (NOT onion salt!)
2 tsp parsley, dry or fresh
1 tbsp wheat germ (for added fiber)
1/2 oz basil leaves, coarsely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
15 oz seedless black olives, drained, sliced or crushed
1 lb mozzarella, shredded
1 lb ricotta
8 oz Provolone, sliced or shredded
6 oz Parmesan, shredded or shaved
Clean and slice the eggplant to about 1/8″ thickness, either in rounds or long flat pieces. Place in a zippy bag in layers, sprinkling salt between each layer. Seal and refrigerate overnight. This treatment will not only pull moisture out of the eggplants slices, it will also reduce any potential bitterness.
When you are ready to assemble the dish, rinse the sliced eggplant and pat dry to further reduce additional moisture.
In a large bowl, mix dry spices including the parsley, pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, and wheat germ. Slice the black olives, or simply crush them between your fingers for a chunkier texture. Pitted olives have a hole on one end and a cross shaped cut on the other. Putting pressure on the sides of the olive will cause it to split into between 2 and 6 odd shaped chunks. Cover the bowl and set aside.
Crumble hamburger and pre-cook until completely cooked through. Drain off any fluid. For a less fatty dish, rinse the meat and allow to drain thoroughly before adding to sauce.
Slice mushrooms. Roll and slice basil leaves.
Set up the crock pot with a liner and/or olive oil spray, as preferred.
Spread just enough sauce along the bottom of the crock to ensure other things won’t stick. Lay down first layer of eggplant slices. Add a layer of mushrooms, basil, mozzarella, ricotta, and a little parmesan and provolone. Cover with a layer of sauce.
Repeat layering, adding the meat in on the next layer, until all ingredients are used up. Make sure that the very top of the dish is covered in cheeses.
Push any cheese bits that may fall under the lip of the lid away from the edge enough to ensure that the cheese should not touch the lid during cooking. This will help avoid a later mess that can be difficult to clean off the chrome, rubber, and/or glass of the crock pot lid.
Allow to cook on high for 6 hours. A wooden skewer should pass down through the middle of the dish with little to no resistance.
Allow to rest for a few minutes after turning the heat off, about as long as it takes to bake up the garlic bread and toss your salad or other accompaniment. Serve and enjoy.
Please drop us a line if you try this one out, and let us know how your version turned out!
— Ann Cathey
Additional photos by M. Tanner and Asher (Thank you!)