The beauty of fresh pasta is that it cooks in lasagna without your having to parboil the noodles first. Here, eggplant imparts a meatiness that makes it a substantial vegetarian entree. Brushing the eggplant with olive oil and broiling it eliminates the calories from the heavy breading usually found in a Parmigiana. For the simple tomato sauce, use whole tomatoes and crush them with your hands rather than buying them already crushed; that gives the sauce a nice texture.
Make Ahead: The lasagna can be made a day in advance, cooled, covered and refrigerated. Or it can be cooled, tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month.
- For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
- 5 medium cloves garlic, sliced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 large bay leaf
- Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed with your hands, plus their juices
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, packed, coarsely chopped
- For the lasagna
- 2 pounds (3 medium) eggplant, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 recipe (16 to 18 ounces) Basic Pasta Dough, rolled into sheets and cut into eight 12-by-4-inch noodles (see related recipe; you will have leftover dough)
- 4 cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese (16 ounces)
- 1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese (4 ounces)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (2 ounces)
For the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and the bay leaf. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until the onion is soft but not brown. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and their juices. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, adjusting the heat so that the sauce is barely bubbling around the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. The yield is 5 cups.
For the lasagna: Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Brush half of the eggplant slices on both sides with the oil and season them generously with salt and pepper. Arrange them on the baking sheet in a single layer and broil for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until well browned. Transfer them to a platter and allow them to cool. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use nonstick cooking oil spray to grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread 1 cup of the sauce evenly on the bottom of the dish.
Place two lasagna sheets on top of the sauce, side by side, and spread them evenly with 1 cup of sauce. Lay one-third of the eggplant slices over the sauce, then a cup of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the pecorino-Romano. Repeat this step twice and then a third time, but without the eggplant. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top. You will have pasta left over for another use.
Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese has browned and the sauce is bubbling. Let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
From The Process columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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