Eggplant and Spinach Lasagna (version II)

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2 large eggplants (about 2-1/2 pound total)
1 teaspoon salt
12 lasagna noodles (about 8 ounces)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 bags (each 10 ounces) spinach
1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts (optional)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups extra-smooth ricotta cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (10 ounces)
1-1/2 cups grated romano or parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon each pepper and nutmeg
Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Peel eggplants; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Sprinkle both sides of eggplant slices with salt. Layer in colander; let stand for 30 minutes.

Tomato Sauce:
Meanwhile, in saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion, garlic and hot pepper flakes until onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano, breaking up tomatoes with spoon; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until almost tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to cold water. Drain and arrange in single layer between damp towels.

Press eggplant slices firmly to remove liquid. Transfer to paper towels; let dry. Brush with 2 tablespoons of the oil; place in single layer on greased foil-lined baking sheets. Bake in 450ºF oven until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on pans; set aside.

In large pot, cook spinach in batches over medium-high heat, with just the water clinging to leaves and turning once, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain; squeeze out moisture. Chop coarsely. In bowl, mix spinach with remaining oil, and pine nuts (if using); set aside.

In bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, 1-1/4 cups of the Romano cheese, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.

Spread half of the tomato sauce in 13- x 9-inch glass baking dish. Top with one-third of the noodles in single layer, half of the spinach mixture, half of the cheese mixture, and half of the eggplant slices, overlapping if necessary; repeat noodle, spinach, cheese and eggplant layers once. Top with remaining noodles and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Romano cheeses.

(Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cold. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Or overwrap with heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks; thaw in refrigerator for 48 hours. Remove foil and plastic wrap; add 10 minutes to covered baking time.)

Cover loosely with foil. Bake in 375ºF oven for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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