Make Uppa You Mind Neapolitan Eggplant Lasagna
by Tom Doyle
(Pittsburgh , PA)
I created this dish out of frustration actually. The people, friends and families, for whom I cook, constantly ask me to prepare one or the other of their 2 favorite dishes of mine, my eggplant Parmesan or my vegetarian lasagna. 2 Large Eggplant cut into 1/4 in slices
I actually got sick of making them they were requested that often. On one particular occasion I was asked to prepare one or the other because no one could make a decision. With all of the ingredients for both dishes laid out in my kitchen I decided to forgo the decision making process and combined the 2 dishes and a star was born!
I always made this dish with white and red sauces and after reworking this recipe a few times I decided that the addition of a Pesto layer would pull this dish together with the colors of the Italian flag and the name of the dish was born!
I know this looks like an intimidating recipe with the amount of ingredients it takes but it is really simple. I decided not to combine all of the ingredients into one single shopping list because it would be too confusing separating them all out and, if you choose, you can use a jarred red sauce, a premade pesto, and a jarred Alfredo if you like. So please read the entire recipe before gathering ingredients, especially the note about the ricotta.
You may also have your own favorite recipes for red, white and pesto sauces so feel free to substitute. You may notice my pesto recipe looks a bit odd, that’s because I do not like pesto heavily laden with olive oil, or anything else for that matter, so I have pulled back on some of the ingredients. For this layer of the dish I want it to be all about the basil since it is only a very thin layer you will be adding. That’s why I add water to my pesto, (I use San Pellegrino) it makes it lighter, brighter, and more basily. I also use cashews instead of the pine nuts because I’m just freaky like dat!
For the Eggplant
6 C Seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1 Qt vegetable oil for frying
For the Filling:
8 oz Button Mushrooms
1- 13.5 oz Can Artichoke hearts (in brine not marinated) drained, squeezed and chopped
1 lb bag frozen spinach drained, squeezed and chopped
1 Medium onion peeled and chopped
6 Garlic peeled and chopped
1 Small carrot peeled and chopped
1 Small Zucchini chopped
1 Small yellow squash chopped
1 Red Bell pepper seeded and chopped
1 Stick unsalted butter
1/4 C Extra virgin olive oil
1 T Dried Basil
1 T Dried Oregano
1- 30 or 40 Oz container of ricotta cheese* ( see note)
1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 C good quality chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 C Shredded Mozzarella
1 C Gated Parmesan
2 C Marinara sauce (recipe follows)
2 C Basil Cashew Pesto (recipe follows)
For the Marinara:
1 Small onion finely diced
2 Garlic cloves minced
1 T Extra Virgin olive oil
1 1/2 t Dried basil
1/2 t Dried oregano
1 28 oz can Crushed tomatoes
For the Pesto:
4 cups Basil leaves (fresh leaves only & firmly packed)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin olive oil
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 C plain or sparkling water
1/8 to 1/4 cup roasted salted cashews
For the Mushroom Cream Sauce:
2 T Extra Virgin olive oil
2 T Unsalted butter
1 Small onion finely diced
1 Shallot minced
1 Garlic Minced
1 lb Button mushrooms sliced
1/4 C Dry white wine
1/4 C good quality chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 3/4 C Heavy Cream
For the Eggplant:
Begin by frying off your eggplant slices. I never use a flour dredge before the egg wash I think it is unnecessary. If you prefer doing it that way go for it.
Slice your eggplant, scramble your eggs and set up a breading station.
After your eggplant is all nice and evenly coated begin frying. Take care to control your frying temp by watching how fast or slow your eggplant is browning. Honestly, one or two slices of eggplant that are too dark or too greasy can ruin this dish, so make sure all of the slices are a nice even golden color.
When your eggplant is all cooked and drained put it aside and begin working on your filling.
For the Filling:
Working in batches, take all of your vegetables, chop and add to the work bowl of a food processor and alternate pulsing and running until you have all of them reduced to a very, very, fine dice. Just not too fine . You don’t want paste.
Next, in the largest sauté pan you have melt the butter, add the olive oil, then add ALL of the vegetables.
Season with salt and pepper and add the oregano and basil.
Sauté until all of the moisture has evaporated from the pan, add the stock and do the same, then add the cream and reduce until thickened.
Spread vegetables out on a sheet pan and pop in the refrigerator to cool, preheat oven to 375 degrees and begin working on your sauces.
Begin with the marinara sauce.
In a small sauce pan heat the olive oil and add the onion and sauté 2 minutes then add the garlic and to the same.
Add the salt, pepper and oregano and do the same.
Add the tomatoes, bring to a slow simmer for fifteen minutes or until the raw tomato taste has gone.
Adjust seasonings and set aside uncovered.
While Marinara is cooking make the white sauce.
Melt the butter and add the olive oil and sauté the onion and shallot 2 minutes, add the garlic and do the same.
Add the sliced mushrooms next, add more oil or butter in necessary and get a nice caramel color on the mushrooms before adding the white wine and reduce until almost completely evaporated.
Add the stock and do the same, add the cream and reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
Adjust seasonings and set aside.
While white sauce is cooking make the pesto. Add all of the ingredients to the work bowl of a food processor except for the oil and water.
Pulse, run , scraping down sides of the processor until you have all of the basil leaves broken down sufficiently, then with the motor still running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a nice, but not too pasty consistency. Remove to a mixing bowl and with a rubber spatula begin folding the water into the pesto until you have a nice spreadable sauce.
Adjust seasonings and set aside.
Remove the cooled vegetable mixture from the refrigerator and combine with the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and eggs and blend into a nice creamy and homogeneous mixture.
Using a 9x13x4 baking dish begin assembling the lasagna by spreading a thin layer of the marinara on the bottom of the pan and covering that with a layer of overlapping eggplant and covering that with another thin layer of marinara.
At this point in other words you will have red sauce, eggplant and red sauce.
Next, add half of the ricotta mixture and top it with another layer of eggplant, spread that with a thin layer of the pesto, then add the remainder of the ricotta and the final layer of eggplant.
Make certain when adding the sauces you get them evenly to the edges. This will ensure a nice presentation of the colors of the flag when sliced and plated.
Top the lasagna with the mushroom cream sauce, and the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and bake in the middle rack of a preheated 375 degree oven until center is hot and edges are bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minutes or until a portion can be sliced without running.
Plate, serve, eat, love me!
Some ricotta is heavy with whey, the liquid part of the cheese, and I don’t like that at all. I have recently discovered a ricotta that is so firm it is almost dry and it has made a world of difference in this dish. However, if you are not able to find such a ricotta, buy the larger amount mentioned above and place in a strainer, lined with a coffee filter over a clean bowl in the refrigerator overnight and you will have a similar product.