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Posts Tagged ‘sauce’

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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When I was 19 (and still somewhat of a picky eater) someone told me that “you don’t have to like tomatoes, but you do have to appreciate them.” At the time, I thought this person was incredibly arrogant and douce-y for saying this to me. I was legitimately offended that someone DARED to tell me what I should and shouldn’t appreciate. I mean, C’mon…I’d been to Paris! I’d visited the Louvre! I’d dined at the Eiffel Tower! I drank red wine and listened to Indie music! I was, in my own mind, “cultured”. Therefore I knew a thing or two about appreciating the “finer things in life”; and tomatoes were not something you “appreciated”…hello! Tomatoes were gross and beneath me.

Fast forward 6 years…

I had an “a-ha” moment today while cooking the most amazing tomato sauce ever. As the tomatoes simmered away in a sea of fresh basil and garlic, lightly drizzled with olive oil, I was just blown away by how something so simple could be so awesome. As the most amazing flavors came crashing over my taste buds, I hit me…I TOTALLY GET IT NOW! I totally understand why I was told to appreciate tomatoes (have I over used the word “totally” yet?). Tomatoes are these amazingly simple things that (when paired with the right elements) can create the most complex flavors…ever. I get it…absolutely 100% get it.

Needless to say, I am finally over my “I don’t like tomatoes” whiny brat phase. Thank God! How boring was I?! I actually love tomatoes now. But more importantly I FINALLY appreciate them. Woo Hoo! This calls for celebration! Let’s eat!

4 ingredient tomato sauce aka Awesome Sauce

serves 4

1 package of cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups)-chopped

6 cloves of garlic-minced

1 handful fresh basil-chopped

2tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

(Ok that’s clearly more than 4 ingredients…deal with it)

-Chop up your tomatoes. I actually chose to take on the tedious task of halving each tiny tomato. I wanted them to break down but still retain their “structural integrity”

(I used cherry tomatoes only because I had them on hand and didn’t want them to get sucked into the black hole that is the back of my refrigerator. I think heirloom tomatoes would be AMAZING in here. However if you want to use some nice Roma tomatoes, by all means, go for it!)

-Heat 2tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a skillet. Add your chopped up tomatoes to the oily-goodness. Add a pinch of salt and pepper (or in my case a few grinds of each).

-Once your tomatoes begin to break down, add the minced garlic and chopped basil. (are you salivating yet?)

-If you’re going to add red pepper flakes to your sauce do so….now.

-Now cover and let this simmer on low for a few hours. Check and stir regularly so it doesn’t burn. That would put a big bummer so don’t let that happen!

Serve this sauce over whole grain penne with a bit of grated parmesan

OR

Use this sauce as a base for the most amazing pizza ever (my personal favorite)

OR

spoon this sauce into a nice big bowl and eat it with a loaf of good crusty bread (man, that sounds WAY better then pizza right now)

Whatever way you chose to consume this awesomely simple tomato sauce, I only ask one thing of you: take the time to understand what it means to appreciate tomatoes (and don’t be like me and get all prissy and offended that someone DARED to ask you to appreciate anything…you’re better than that!)

Enjoy!

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