I recently shared some leftover Eggplant Lasagna with my friend Beth Barnes. Here are her comments. “I hate eggplant. The only time I’ve ever eaten it was when I was in Greece and the texture was mushy. Your recipe for Eggplant Lasagna has changed my whole perspective on eggplant! I liked the texture of the eggplant in the lasagna because it was not mushy. The lasagna was light, as opposed to a heavy dish. It was not smothered with tomato sauce and cheese. I never thought about adding raisins to a savory dish but the raisins just add an occasional bite of sweetness. I love the combination of flavors!”
This recipe is a lighter, healthier version of eggplant Parmesan. Instead of breading and frying the eggplant, the eggplant is grilled. The eggplant is cut into thin planks and layered like lasagna noodles. Mini bow tie pasta is used in this recipe but you could omit the pasta and cut even more calories! The individual flavors of the vegetables truly shine because the dish is not smothered in cheese or sauce. The crowning glory is the super crispy seasoned panko sprinkled on top of the lasagna right before you serve it.
When you read the recipe you may question the use of golden raisins and kalamata olives. The Italians are masters of mixing flavors. The raisins add a just a hint of sweetness and the kalamata olives add a briny note. The marinara sauce, arrabbiata, gets it’s spiciness from crushed red peppers. When all the flavors come together they dance in your mouth because there is a different flavor and texture in every bite!
This recipe develops more flavors when it sits in the refrigerator for a day before you bake it. Try it for dinner parties when need a “make ahead” dish. Enjoy!
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 medium eggplants (around 2.3- 2.5 pounds), sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch planks= 12 slices of eggplant total
2 slices of a large red onion, 1/4 inch thick
24 ounces arrabbiata sauce (spicy marinara sauce)
3 cups cooked mini bow tie pasta
1/2 cup sliced, pitted kalamata olives
8 ounces Italian cheese blend
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
2 cups panko
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Place 1/4 cup raisins in a small bowl and cover with water. Cook in microwave for 2 minutes and let steep for 15 minutes. Wash and dry eggplants. Cut each eggplant into 8 slices. Cut onion into 2 slices. Heat grill to high. Brush both sides of eggplant and onion slices with olive oil. The eggplant will absorb the oil. Don’t worry there is no need to add more oil. Grill on high heat, turning over several times to get grill marks. The eggplant is ready when it arches in a crescent. Grill the onion until it is soft. Remove eggplant and onion from grill. Cut onion into 1/2 inch pieces, Set aside.
Drain raisins. Spray a 9 X 13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon a very scant amount of arrabbiata sauce on the bottom of the dish. Layer like this: Layer 1: 4 eggplant slices (cut eggplant off where it overlaps and position in the empty spots). Layer 2: One third of the pasta, olives, Italian cheese blend, raisins, basil and red onion. Layer 3: One fourth of the arrabbiata sauce. Repeat layers 1 – 3 two more times using any leftover arrabbiata sauce on the top. Cover lasagna with foil.
Bake 350F for 45-50 minutes or until bubbling throughout. Remove from oven and let rest, covered, for 15 minutes before serving. While the lasagna is resting prepare the panko sawdust. Melt butter in a skillet. Add the panko and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the panko is golden brown. Add the Italian seasoning. Right before serving, remove foil from lasagna. Garnish with panko and grated Parmesan cheese.
Published in The News and Neighbor on June 22, 2016