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Eggplant Lasagna

Am I crazy for turning my oven on in this 100° weather? Maybe.

I don’t care. This lasagna is worth it. It’s ridiculously delicious.

This recipe came to me in a dream. True story. I take that as a sign that this lasagna MUST be shared with the world. You’re welcome. (I’m also pretty sure Neil Patrick Harris was in the same dream…possibly as Barney Stinson…eating whole eggplants. Random? Yes, but pretty typical for my weird-o brain. I should probably stop watching HIMYM before bedtime).

**Wow, I just reread that last part and could hear NPH speaking it. Get out of my brain!**

I wanted to have a lasagna that was heavy on the veggies, but have a texture and consistency similar to “typical” lasagnas.

After I cooked the sauce in a dutch oven, I let it cool a bit; then add the whole thing to my food processor (you could use a blender too).

By pureeing the sauce, it becomes a veggie-marinara. Tastes like “typical” marinara but is more rich in vitamins. Plus, it gets a fun orange color.

It’s JBird approved.

What you’ll need :

– 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

-16oz part skim ricotta

– 1 cup shredded mozzarella 

-1 cup grated parmesan

– 1 eggplant; thinly sliced

-1 zucchini; shredded

-5 carrots; peeled and shredded

– 5 ripe tomatoes; whole with the tops cut off

-6 cloves of garlic; chopped

-1 onion; chopped

-2 tbsp olive oil

-1 handful fresh basil; whole leaves

-1 tsp dried oregano

-1 tsp garlic powder

-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

-1 tsp seasoned salt

-salt and pepper

Let’s get saucy! In a dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot, add your chopped onions and garlic. Add a few grinds of salt and pepper, and cook until the onions are tender.

Now, add the whole tomatoes, basil, shredded carrots and zucchini to the dutch oven. Cover, turn your heat down to low and let simmer for 2-3 hours; stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, oregano, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes and seasoned salt. Ricotta is virtually flavorless, so by adding some spices it really “peps” it up a bit. Plus, I love the combination of cheeses in the layers of this dish. Super tasty. Set your cheese mixture aside (preferably in your refrigerator) until you’re ready to assemble your lasagna.

Once the veggies in your sauce have had a chance to break down and “mingle” together, remove your dutch oven from the heat and let cool uncovered for about 10 minutes. **It doesn’t need to be completely cool, just not HOT enough to cause damage to your food processor (or blender)** Puree on low until everything is a uniform consistency (i.e.: no more chunks of tomatoes or zucchini). Pour the blended sauce back into your dutch oven, put back on your burner and let cook, covered, for an additional 30-45 minutes. You could also use an immersion blender to puree everything IN your dutch oven! They are super handy and I will forever regret giving mine away. One of my few regrets in life. C’est la vie. 

Tip: I usually add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese to the sauce at this point. Just for kicks. You can leave it out but I think it takes the sauce to a whole new level…so, do it!

Preheat your oven to 375°. Place uncooked noodles in a large pot of boiling walter. You don’t need to cook them completely; you just want to soak them long enough so they cooperate with you (i.e. flexible, not rigid). About 5 minutes.

In a greased 9×13 pan, cover the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of veggie sauce. Layer your lasagna as follows:

Noodles-Sauce-Sliced Eggplant-Sauce-Ricotta/Parmesan

Noodles-Sauce-Sliced Eggplant-Sauce-Ricotta/Parmesan

Noodles-Sauce-Mozzerella!

Phew, that was a workout! Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes; or until the top is nice and bubbly.

Tip: I usually spray the foil with a non-stick spray so the cheese doesn’t stick it

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Trust me, this dish is legend…wait for it…dary.

Serves 12

Tip: You could easily make this sauce in a slow cooker if you’d like. Just pop all your ingredients into the slow cooker, put on the lid, and cook on LOW for 8 hours. Heck, you could make the sauce ahead of time (like on a Sunday), then assemble you’re lasagna in the slow cooker the next day! By the time you get home from work, it’ll be ready to devour! I just love slow cookers. 

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