Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

After making a fabulous dish from this book, Flattened Chicken Thighs With Roasted Lemon Slices, I knew I had to try another. The preparation involved to make this dish was a sharp contrast to the quick-cooking chicken thighs, but I knew it would be worth every minute. Twenty cloves of garlic too! 🙂

This might be the most labor-intensive lasagna I’ve ever made, but it was certainly one of the best. The recipe was adapted from Mozza at Home: More than 150 Crowd-Pleasing Recipes for Relaxed, Family-Style Entertaining by Nancy Silverton with Carolyn Carreno. I used large eggs and substituted some reduced-fat dairy. I also omitted the olives, straining the béchamel, pre-cooking the pasta, as well as broiling the baked lasagna.

Because I used un-cooked pasta when layering my dish, I was not able to use the genius tip of cutting the lasagna prior to baking. Thankfully, I didn’t have any difficultly cutting it after it was fully cooked. Absolutely amazing!!

For the Eggplants:

  • 2 large eggplants (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup large garlic cloves (about 20 large cloves), peeled and sliced 1/16 inch thick lengthwise (preferably on a mandoline)
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup (about 3 oz) pitted small black olives, such as Taggiasche, Nicoise, or Kalamata, optional
  • 3 T za’atar or dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red chile flakes

For the Cheese Sauce:

  • 1/2 large yellow Spanish onion, halved root to tip, peeled
  • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 arbol chile pod
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart whole milk (I used 2 cups whole milk & 2 cups 1 percent milk)
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 12 ounces (3 cups) shredded low-moisture mozzarella (part-skim okay)
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Pasta & Assembly:

  • 16-ounce package dried lasagna noodles (I used DeCecco)
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Prepare the Eggplant: The eggplant is roasted on the oven floor. If using an electric oven, adjust the oven racks so that one is closest to the oven floor and put a pizza stone on it. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Trim and discard the tip and stem ends of the eggplants and cut the eggplants into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Divide the eggplant pieces between two large baking sheets. Drizzle each portion with 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss and gently massage the cubes to coat the eggplant. Spread the eggplant cubes out in a single layer on the baking sheets.
  4. Cooking one batch at a time, put one baking sheet on the oven floor or on a pizza stone on the lowest rack and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cubes are dark brown all over and beginning to lose their shape, rotating the baking sheet from front to back and moving the cubes with a metal spatula halfway through the cooking time so that they don’t stick.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, season with 1 teaspoon of salt; set aside.
  6. Repeat with the second batch of eggplant.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, season the second baking sheet or roasted eggplant cubes with 1 teaspoon of salt; set aside.
  8. Combine the garlic and the remaining 1/4 cup oil in a large Dutch oven or another large high-sided pot over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is soft and very light golden brown, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add the tomatoes, sugar, and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, stir to combine, and cook the tomatoes for 5 to 6 minutes, until they thicken slightly.
  10. Spoon out and reserve 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce.
  11. Add the roasted eggplant, olives (if using), za’atar or oregano, pepper, and red chile flakes. Stir to combine and cook until the eggplants have taken on the color of the sauce, about 5 minutes. (Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup water if the sauce becomes dry or sticky.)
  12. Turn off the heat and set aside while you make the cheese sauce.
  13. Make the Cheese Sauce (& Béchamel): Trim and discard the root end of the onion half. Cut the onion half in half again root to tip so the onion is quartered. Slice 1/4-inch lengthwise.
  14. Combine the butter, onion, chile pod, and bay leaves in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat.
  15. Cook, stirring often, until the butter is melted and the onion is soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
  16. Add the flour, whisking constantly to remove any lumps, and cook for 2 minutes to cook off the flour flavor.
  17. Gradually add 1 cup of the milk, whisking constantly.
  18. Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken, about 1 minute.
  19. Add another cup of the remaining milk, whisking constantly.
  20. Return the sauce to a boil and add the remaining 2 cups milk, whisking constantly.
  21. Return the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, whisking or stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes.
  22. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt.
  23. Remove and discard the chile pod and bay leaves.
  24. With a ladle, remove 1 cup of the béchamel; set aside.
  25. Add the mozzarella, ricotta, Parmigiano, and the eggs to the pot with the remaining béchamel and gently whisk to combine.
  26. Adjust the oven rack so that one is in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  27. Assemble & Finish the Dish: Spread 1/2 cup reserved tomato sauce over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  28. Lay 6 half-sheets (or 3 full sheets) of lasagna on the bottom of the pan to cover it.
  29. Add half of the tomato-eggplant sauce (about 2 1/2 cups) and spread it evenly over the pasta.
  30. Spoon half of the cheese sauce over the sauce and spread it in an even layer to the edge and into the corners of the pan.
  31. Lay an additional 6 half-sheets (or 3 full sheets) of pasta over the cheese sauce. Press down on the pasta sheets with the palms of your hands to remove air bubbles and to ensure that the layers are flat and even.
  32. Spoon remaining tomato-eggplant sauce over the top; spread evenly.
  33. Spoon remaining cheese sauce over the top; spread evenly and to the edges and corners of the pan.
  34. Lay a final layer of pasta on top.
  35. Using a rubber spatula, gently spread the reserved béchamel evenly over the top of the lasagna.
  36. Sprinkle with Parmigiano.
  37. Put the lasagna on a baking sheet and put it in the oven to bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and puffed up a bit. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking time.
  38. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Note: The pasta can be prepared through step #34 a day in advance. Cover the pan and refrigerate until ready to bake.

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Cauliflower Gratin

My husband refused to let me simply roast the special heads of cauliflower we received in our CSA share. When he agreed to eat this indulgent cheesy cauliflower celebration as a main dish, we struck a deal. I added a little bit of pasta to make it more substantial.

We enjoyed this dish with roasted potatoes, roasted carrots, as well as Toscano kale and watermelon radish greens sautéed with garlic, onions and leeks on the side. It truly was a CSA box feast. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten. I used one and a half heads of my small CSA cauliflower, about two pounds total. The original recipe called for three pounds, so I added pasta to the gratin. I also drizzled olive oil over the top of the dish instead of butter.

Cheesy deliciousness. 🙂

  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets (I used 2 pounds of cauliflower supplemented with 1 cup orecchiette pasta)
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyère, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1/4 cup panko or fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.
  3. Cook the pasta, if using, about 2 minutes less than the package directions for al dente.
  4. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.
  6. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyère, and the Parmesan.
  7. Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish or another equivalently sized baking dish.
  8. Place the drained cauliflower on top (and the pasta, if using) and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top.
  9. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyère and sprinkle on top.
  10. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the gratin.
  11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Cheesy Pasta Casserole with Wild Mushrooms

This is high-class macaroni and cheese. 😉 Fancy comfort food. A delicious vegetarian main course. What’s not to love? My favorite pasta shape- orecchiette- with earthy mushrooms, salty Parmigiano Reggiano, and fabulous melted fontina cheese. Prior to incorporating the mushrooms with the pasta, they are roasted with rosemary which infuses them with amazing flavor. Delicious.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used two cloves of garlic and a combination of cremini and shiitake mushrooms. I also decreased the baking temperature to 475 degrees (because I was worried about damaging my special casserole dish). No worries- it was still brown and bubbly. 🙂

Now that spring has sprung, I thought that I may have missed my chance to post this cozy dish, but it may snow here tonight! So I suppose I’m safe. :/

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 pound mixed wild or cultivated mushrooms, such as oyster, maitake and shiitake (I used 12 oz cremini mushrooms and 4 oz shiitake mushrooms.)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, plus a few grinds
  • 2 fresh rosemary branches
  • ½ pound orecchiette, farfalle or other short pasta
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta
  • 5 ounces fontina cheese, grated (1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated (I used a garlic press.)
  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Trim the mushrooms and cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss with the olive oil, the salt, a few grinds of pepper and the rosemary. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast, tossing once or twice, until golden brown and crisped around the edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Discard rosemary.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for at least a few minutes less than the package directs. (You want the pasta very al dente; it will finish softening in the sauce.) Drain well.
  4. Turn oven up to 475 degrees.
  5. In a large bowl, stir together the cream, ricotta, fontina, Parmesan, sage, pepper, garlic and a pinch of salt
  6. Stir in the pasta and mushrooms.
  7. Arrange in a shallow 2-quart gratin dish or 9- by 13-inch pan.
  8. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly and browned in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Rigatoni with Cabbage, Creme Fraiche, & Pumpernickel Bread Crumbs

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My father-in-law has lost a considerable amount of weight by eating a raw cabbage salad prior to his meals. Thank goodness he has become quite a cabbage-fan because I couldn’t believe I served him a main dish that incorporated cabbage- an entire head of cabbage! 🙂

The cabbage in this sauce is shredded and becomes completely unrecognizable in the creamy sauce. The crème fraiche added a lovely tanginess and the pumpernickel bread crumbs added a fabulous contrasting texture. We ate it on Thanksgiving Eve with a green salad. It was a delicious dish!

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Mike Lata. I used black forest bacon, mezzi rigatoni, and green cabbage instead of Savoy. I also reduced the crushed red pepper and increased the garlic. We grated additional Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top of each serving at the table. Yum!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 8 ounces pumpernickel bread (with crusts), torn into pieces (3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice (I used black forest bacon)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 head of Savoy or green cabbage (1 1/2 pounds), shredded (I used a food processor)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound rigatoni or mezzi rigatoni
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  1. In a food processor, pulse the bread until coarse crumbs form. In a skillet, melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 minutes. Season with salt.
  3. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain.
  4. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet and cook until the onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and stock and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until almost all of the stock has evaporated, 8 to 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  6. Toss the pasta with the cabbage.
  7. Stir in the crème fraîche, the 1/2 cup of cheese and, if necessary, the reserved pasta water; season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Transfer the pasta to bowls and garnish with the breadcrumbs, bacon and black pepper. Serve with additional cheese on the side.

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Scallops and Polenta

I have a soft spot for quick, easy, and pretty comfort food dishes! This dish is very reminiscent of one of our household favorites- shrimp and grits. Traditionally, we make that special dish from Charleston, South Carolina at Easter-time. Maybe this version should be our fall variation! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, via The Gourmet Gourmand. We ate it with sautéed broccoli rabe and broccoli on the side. Lovely!

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup dried polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand; do NOT use instant polenta for this recipe)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano (I also added a little bit of shredded Gruyère)
  • 8 sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • 3 T grape seed oil
  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs of fresh herbs such as oregano, parsley, and/or thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

To prepare polenta:

  1. Bring water and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.) While whisking, slowly add the polenta. Whisk frequently to avoid lumps. When mixture begins to spit, turn heat down to simmer (polenta should intermittently bubble and pop, but not rapidly).
  2. Continue to cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes, until polenta is thickened and soft and pulls away slightly from the edge of the pot. Add the grated cheese and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and about 1/4 tsp of salt.

To prepare scallops and sauce:

  1. Pat your scallops dry and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Using a regular or cast-iron skillet, bring the grape seed oil to high heat. When pan is very hot, add scallops and sear for about 3 minutes. Flip the scallops and sear on the opposite side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until scallops are cooked to your liking. Remove scallops and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until butter is lightly browned and smells nice and nutty. Turn off heat. Finish sauce with lemon juice (carefully! It will bubble and spit). Quickly pour into bowl or serving vessel to stop the cooking process. (It can be strained through a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, if desired.)
  4. Serve scallops over bed of polenta, with a drizzle of the brown-butter sauce and minced herbs.

Note: Cooking the scallops in oil vs. butter allows you to sear them at a higher temperature for optimal sear marks and will give you more control over creating your browned butter sauce without burning the butter.

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If you like this you may also like:

Roasted Zucchini Parmesan with Fresh Tomato Sauce

I was going take a break from my zucchini posts, but this dish was absolutely amazing. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this twist on Eggplant Parmesan. The zucchini is roasted instead of fried, layered with homemade fresh tomato sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano, and then baked. It was a little bit time-consuming for a summer meal but completely worth it!

This dish is from The New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. We ate it with campanelle pasta and green salad on the side. Delicious!

Time: about 1½ hours

Yield: 4 servings

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 to 2½ pounds fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Zucchini Parmesan:

  • 2 to 2¼ pounds zucchini
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • pasta, for serving, if desired
  1. Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes. (I peel the tomatoes by cutting an “x” into the skin on the bottom, and then dropping them into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds.)
  2. Pulse the prepared tomatoes in a food processor fitted with steel blade until just coarsely puréed. Stir in chopped basil.
  3. To make tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and basil sprigs.
  5. Increase heat to medium-high. When tomatoes are bubbling briskly, stir and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and are beginning to stick to pan, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on consistency. Remove basil sprigs; taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment.
  7. Trim ends off zucchini and cut in half crosswise, then into lengthwise slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. (I didn’t cut my smaller zucchini crosswise.)
  8. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange zucchini slices on baking sheets in one layer and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Roast for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and easily pierced with a knife.
  9. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.
  10. To assemble the dish, oil a 2-quart gratin with olive oil or cooking oil spray. Spread 1/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom of dish.
  11. Arrange a third of the zucchini in an even layer over tomato sauce. Spoon a third of remaining sauce over zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  12. Drizzle on remaining tablespoon olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on the top and edges. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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Seared Scallop Bites

We have a few gold standard appetizers in our house. This is one of them- we have made it for YEARS. It is simple and elegant.

I don’t know if it started when we were on a tighter financial budget, but we use half of a scallop on each bite-sized appetizer. The scallops go further- of course- but they also cook faster and are more buttery as well. Why mess with perfection? 🙂 The recipe is adapted from Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford with Lori Lyn Narlock.

The original recipe provides instructions to make parmesan crisps to serve each seared scallop on. The first time I ever made this dish, I attempted to make these crisps (with much frustration)… never again! From then on we have always used bite-sized melba toast instead and they are absolutely perfect (& much easier!). With slivers of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano topping each toast- spectacular!!

Yield: Makes 12 bites

  • 6 sea scallops, each sliced in half (in height), yielding 12 equal disks
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper or white pepper
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • white truffle oil, optional
  • 12 bite-sized melba toast
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh chives
  • 12 thin slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I use a vegetable peeler)
  1. Dry the surface of the scallops with a paper towel; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt 2 T of the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add half of the scallops (make sure not to overcrowd) and cook until barely cooked through.
  4. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
  5. Wipe out the skillet and return to the stove over medium heat. Melt the 2 remaining T of butter in the skillet.
  6. Add the remaining scallops and cook until barely cooked through, about 2 minutes. Set aside with the other scallops.
  7. To assemble: Top each melba toast with a sliver of Parmigiano-Reggiano, then top with a scallop. Drizzle with white truffle oil, if using, and sprinkle with chives.
  8. Serve immediately.

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