Some have said that they would choose Eggplant Lasagna with Fresh Basil as their last meal on earth. It is truly one of those summer meals that never grows old…my kids suggest I make it at the mere suggestion that an eggplant recipe is a possibility.
The thing I love most about this recipe is that is chock full of healthy ingredients – fresh vegetables along with the protein and calcium added from the stretchy gooey mozzarella and salty creamy ricotta cheese. Yes, it’s healthy and delicious… but to add to that, it’s easy! Could any busy mother ask for more – a one-pot healthy delicious and EASY meal? You can find it in my latest cookbook, Harvest.
Last week was one of the weeks for me that everyone has to have every now and then, if you get my drift. Well, seeking comfort, I wanted this meal, but I really didn’t feel like sautéing the eggplant. I just wanted a dish I could throw together and have it turn out marvelously.
In that I keep pesto (recipe below) at all times in my freezer and always have crushed tomatoes canned and ready for use in the pantry, Eggplant Lasagna with Basil Pesto was just a few minutes away. I placed the seasoned eggplant in a microwave-proof bowl and allowed the eggplant to release its juices. I then drained the eggplant and proceeded with the layering instructions below. The results were superb! No problems at all.
Not knowing this, my mother-in-law, who is an excellent cook, had been making my recipe all summer. She wanted a shortcut too. She told me that the last time she made this dish that she peeled and sliced the eggplant and continued with the recipe as if she had sautéed the eggplant. She reported that it was excellent. Even more simple.
Larger eggplants may be bitter. If you have a large eggplant, simply salt the eggplant and let it sit for a few minutes to draw some of the liquid out. Dry the eggplant with a paper towel and proceed with instructions.
Side-by-side, the sautéed eggplant is more flavorful, but if you find yourself short of time, it is a very close second. Sautéing and roasting always brings out flavors to their maximum potential. I just want to say, don’t let lack of time keep you from this delicious dish.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil , plus more for sautéing
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano , chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt fresh thyme , chopped
- ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 3 medium eggplant
- 1 pint (2 cups) drained crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese , shredded
- Fresh basil , for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice eggplant into 1/8 inch slices using a very sharp knife or mandolin.
In a large bowl mix olive oil, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Toss eggplant in mixture.
Heat a nonstick sauté pan over high heat. When oil is simmering place eggplant and sauté until pliable.
Spoon about ½ cup tomato sauce on bottom of 9x11 baking dish. Place a layer of eggplant then more tomato sauce. Dollop ricotta and pesto using about 1/3 of each ingredient. Add another layer of eggplant slices and repeat twice more with the tomato, ricotta, and pesto. Top with mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Basil Pesto has pulled me out of quite a few predicaments. I’ve had out of town friends call to tell me they are stopping by the house on their way home from a beach trip and it be right during the dinner hour. Having Basil Pesto on hand is a lifesaver in instances like this.
It’s incredibly versatile. I like to serve it over hot noodles, with Eggplant Parmesan, fried squash or over eggs for an easy beautiful breakfast. Basil is easy to grow making that much more easy to keep on hand.
and add cheese. Freeze for up to 3 months.
If you are going to freeze, omit the cheese and add after the pesto has thawed.
Tip for the garden: basil is an excellent insect repellant for us and our gardens!
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2½ cups basil leaves
- 1 cup Romano cheese
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup olive oil
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place pine nuts, garlic, basil, Romano, salt and pepper. Slowly feed olive oil through feed tube of processor and process until pureed.