Meat Lasagna With Eggplant and Spinach
Eggplant is a truly beautiful fruit with deep purple, shiny skin and a creamy interior. It's lovely, that is, until you try to cook with it. Eggplant is full of what are called saponins—little devils that soak up fat like a dieter's nightmare.
A common preparation technique is to salt the eggplant to remove excess fluids, which adds extra time to your cooking. Not to mention that eggplant has a very distinctive texture and flavor that is an adjustment if you haven't grown up eating them.
If your kids are like mine, then any unusual food gets a critical and suspicious eye. I had tried eggplant parmesan and fried eggplant and I wanted to try a slightly different take than what I was used to doing. Lasagna is always a hit in my home, and I was hoping that the rich taste and layers might let the eggplant pass relatively unnoticed.
- 2 small eggplants
- 1 medium onion
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 large container small-curd cottage cheese
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- Garlic salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- Oregano, to taste
- Fresh basil, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon parsley, or to taste
- 1 container tomato sauce
Step 1: Prepare the Eggplant
So, as mentioned above, most eggplant preparation calls for salting your eggplant. If you want to go that route (and it would certainly improve the amount of fluid that comes out of them) then check out the video at the bottom of the page. I decided to live dangerously and opted out of salting my eggplant.
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- To make layers with your eggplant, you will have to slice it up into relatively thin pieces. If you want to hide them from your kids then peel them first. I chopped the head and tail off of two small eggplants and sliced them, lengthwise, into somewhat uniform pieces. Please note that my slices were thinner than what is shown in the video.
- Lay parchment paper down on your pan and lay out your slices. Drizzle with olive oil (or the oil of your choice) and sprinkle with garlic salt, pepper, and oregano.
- Slide your pan (or in my case, pans) into the oven for 20 minutes. Two small eggplants yielded two full pans for me.
Eggplant Before and After BakingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Step 2: Prepare the Meat
While your eggplant is baking, you can go ahead and prepare your meat.
- Dice up the onion and add it to a skillet with the ground pork sausage.
- Cook until your meat is browned and your onions are clear.
- Drain your grease.
Meat PrepClick thumbnail to view full-size
Step 3: Prepare the Cheese Mixture
Traditionally lasagna is made using ricotta cheese. I'm using small-curd cottage cheese (poor man's ricotta) as a substitute.
- Empty the container of cottage cheese into a mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle the parsley over the top.
- Add the egg and shredded cheddar cheese to the bowl.
- Chop up about 1 cup of fresh spinach, add it to the bowl, and mix all of your ingredients together.
Cheese MixtureClick thumbnail to view full-size
Step 4: Build the Lasagna
Normally I would mix my tomato sauce with my meat, but I wanted to cut back on the acidic tomato sauce. (Heartburn is an issue for a few of mine.) For this lasagna I had a layer of sauce on the bottom and on the top. Admittedly, it made it look a bit like enchiladas but it worked for us.
- Coat the bottom of the pan you are using with tomato sauce before adding more layers.
- Layer eggplant, then meat, then eggplant, and then cheese. Repeat layers until you have used everything up.
- Ideally, you would end with a cheese layer, though I added sauce as the top layer. If you have it, you can top it with some freshly chopped basil and more of the shredded cheddar.
Layering Your LasagnaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Step 5: Cook the Lasagna
- Bump your oven temperature up to 400°F.
- Bake your lasagna, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
To be honest, I was exceedingly speculative as to how this would turn out. The result was a wonderful surprise! The lasagna was very flavorful and the eggplant worked very well as a substitute "noodle." I would suggest peeling the lasagna if you don't want your kids asking about the "purple stuff" in the lasagna. Bonus: I was able to eat a decadent lasagna with a low-calorie count. I'm still not sure I will make eggplant a regular part of my diet but I definitely like this as yummy use for eggplant.
Changes or Improvements
As noted above, I would suggest adding sauce to the meat so that it is present at each meat layer. However, I honestly felt that the layer at the top and bottom provided the perfect amount of sauce.
The eggplant yielded a lot of water after baking. This did nothing to detract from the flavor, but it does affect presentation. I was able to pour off extra water relatively easily but salting the eggplant should fix that particular problem.
Lastly, ricotta cheese is more traditional for the cheese layer.
|Serving size: 1|
|Calories from Fat||63|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 7 g||11%|
|Saturated fat 3 g||15%|
|Unsaturated fat 0 g|
|Carbohydrates 21 g||7%|
|Sugar 10 g|
|Fiber 8 g||32%|
|Protein 39 g||78%|
|Cholesterol 92 mg||31%|
|Sodium 829 mg||35%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Why Eat Eggplant?
- Benefits of Eating Eggplant
Non-profit foundation providing reliable, scientifically accurate, personalized information for convenient and enjoyable healthy eating.