Meaty Mediterranean Lasagna
Eggplant is one of those vegetables I grew up thinking I didn’t like. It just sounded so weird. But thanks to my produce co-op and my desire to eat more whole foods, I have become aquatinted with this beautiful, delicious vegetable. If you want to add some variety to your diet, joining a co-op or CSA is a great way to try new produce. All of the members of our co-op are required to help purchase the extras that we inevitably have. This is how I first took home eggplant, along with several other produce items that I now love.
When summer arrives, and eggplant becomes available on our co-op seasonal list, someone always asks, “What do you do with your eggplant?” The answer is usually eggplant parmesan (which I also happen to love, and will be sharing with you next month), but last summer I discovered this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks. I emailed this recipe out to all of the co-op members, to give them some variety, and received several emails and comments in praise of this recipe. I have found that this lasagna is a great way to sneak some veggies into my husband and kids, since they all love pasta. I’m also a huge fan of recipes like this one that include all of the necessary nutrition in one dish: meat, whole grains, dairy, and lots of colorful vegetables (the more colors, the more vitamins.)
To those who love eggplant – I hope you enjoy this new way to eat it. And to those who have yet to discover the pleasant purple vegetable – give it a try!
Meaty Mediterranean Lasagna
Kim @ onceamonthmeals.com, adapted from Glycemic Index Cooking Made Easy
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1.25 cups chopped onion
- 4 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 pound ground beef
- 28 ounces canned whole tomatoes, undrained
- 1 cup water
- 0.5 cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (for sauce)
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large eggplant (or 2 small), sliced (1/2 inch width)
- 2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
- 12 each whole wheat lasagna noodles
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (for layering)
In a large heavy sauce pan, heat half of oil. Saute onion and garlic for about 3 minutes. Add beef and cook until no longer pink. Add whole tomatoes, crushing with your hands or chopping with kitchen shears, along with water, tomato paste, oregano, and basil for sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile brush eggplant slices on both sides with remaining oil. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place under the broiler until browned on both sides. You may have to flip them over in the middle of cooking time. This should take about 8-12 minutes, but broiler temperatures vary, so watch carefully.
Cook lasagna noodles al dente, according to package directions and drain. Grease 2 deep dish 8 x 8 foil baking pans (or one 13 x 9 baking pan). Pour in enough meat sauce to coat the bottom of the pans. Place first layer of cooked lasagna sheets on top. Layer half of the eggplant, half of the spinach, one third of the cheese, and one third of the basil. Pour about one third of remaining sauce on top. Repeat layer and top again with another third of the sauce. Top with remaining lasagna noodles, pour over remaining sauce, and sprinkle with cheese and remaining basil. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until cooked through and bubbly.
Prepare according to directions above, but freeze before baking. Cover tightly with foil. To serve: Thaw and bake as directed above.
**conversion chart image provided by Erik Spiekerman