Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

So there I was, talking to a friend about this great substitute for pasta. “It’s an eggplant lasagna”, I told her, feeling quite smug about my amazingly fabulous creation. “Oh, you mean eggplant parmigiana! My Italian family makes that all the time.”

Oh, yes. So it is. Ahem.

I think this is a good one not just for the gluten-free, but for anyone watching their waistline. Removing the pasta cuts this down by a couple hundred calories per portion. Yes, this is full of cheese (gooey, delicious, fatty cheese!) but you can substitute low fat mozzarella and low fat ricotta or even cottage cheese, although any low fat cheese can go quite watery when baked.

We tend to have this alone or just with a salad. Feel free to experiment with other grilled veggies in the layers – zucchini or squash would also work well in this dish.

The meat sauce is the same one I mention in my zucchini “pasta” post here: http://www.sweetpotatochronicles.com/wordpress/2012/04/lisas-letters-home-zucchini-pasta/ It’s my “go to” ragu sauce and use it for everything from spaghetti to cottage pie (or “Shepherd’s pie” as it’s usually called outside of the UK, although ours is made with minced lamb.)

Some people add béchamel or white sauce in the layers, which you can do, by all means. I’m not a fan because I find it makes it all a bit heavy, so go by your own taste.

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

  • Serves 6
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 rib of celery, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 wine glassful of red wine
  • 1 tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 star anise
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • For the parmigiana:
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 400g mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tub of ricotta

Method

In a large frying pan (with a lid), heat the oil over a high flame.

Add the beef and season it with salt and pepper, and let it brown – don’t stir it too often so that it gets a bit of a “crust”.

Remove the beef and drain.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, and fry for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft.

Throw in the red wine and let it reduce a little.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and star anise.

Turn the heat down to low, cover, and let the sauce simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes (a couple of hours is ideal.)

Alternatively, add the sauce to a slow cooker at this point, and cook on low for 6 hours.

Just before serving, remove the star anise and bay leaf, stir in the basil, and season to taste.

Leave to cool a little before adding it to the baking dish or you can make the sauce ahead of time and freeze.

Slice the eggplants into 1/2”  slices and drizzle with a little bit of oil, and a little bit of salt and ground pepper.

Some people heavily salt and leave eggplant to sit for around an hour or so, then rinse thoroughly to get rid of any bitterness, but I find that eggplants these days don’t need it.

Heat a frying pan or grill until smoking hot and place a layer of eggplant in the pan.

Sear for around 1-2 minutes on each side, until they brown a little.

Remove from the pan and sear in batches.

In a baking dish, add the following layers: eggplant, sauce, slices of mozzarella, ricotta, and repeat starting with another layer of eggplant.

You’ll probably get around three or four layers, but it depends entirely on the shape and size of your dish.

Ensure there’s a good layer of mozzarella on top.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top layer is lovely golden brown and bubbly.

Leave to cool a little before serving, or else you’ll end up with eggplant soup.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Lisa Durbin
    August 31, 07:03 Reply

    Sorry, should have mentioned that I used a 9×11″ baking dish for this recipe! Need more coffee.

  2. Natalee Caple
    August 31, 07:55 Reply

    yum yum yum! A friend of mine who is an amazing Chinese chef once told me that smaller eggplants are softer and sweeter and light and creamy so no worries about salting and breaking the stiffness just slice lengthwise instead of across or use much smaller circles! Easy to find little ones in Chinese markets but choose smaller ones too.

  3. Tina
    August 31, 08:53 Reply

    sounds like one to try, love eggplant!

  4. Lisa Durbin
    August 31, 11:36 Reply

    Great tip, Natalee! I haven’t tried the small ones yet, but I have seen them at the supermarket.

    Let us know if you give it a go, Tina!

  5. Hugh
    August 31, 12:02 Reply

    For even lower calories alternatives, split leeks open and blanche “leek sheets” until soft – then use two or three layers as a lasagne pasta substitute.

    We also make it with merely a Bechamel sauce inside, and some grated cheddar/parmesan on top to finish – all the taste, fewer calories.

  6. Lisa Durbin
    August 31, 13:27 Reply

    That sounds very nice, Hugh. You could also do a “canneloni” sort of thing with the leeks, I think. Great tip, thank you.

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