Okay, we have to talk about my new obsession that is Orange is the New Black. Are you watching this?! I am, obviously. Actually I can’t watch it anymore because I finished the entire season already. In less than a week. If you know me and my TV habits (I rarely watch TV), you know this is quite crazy. So when I’m glued to the TV for a week straight, you know something is up.
If you haven’t heard of it, Orange is the New Black (OITNB) is a Netflix series based off a woman’s true story of going to prison for smuggling drugs one time in her early twenties. She’s an unlikely character to be going to prison as she has been living a pretty comfortable life in the city, owning a boutique bath soap company and engaged to a writer. The series is funny, shocking, disgusting, uplifting, surprising, frightening, and enlightening all at the same time. After watching the first season I feel like I really know the women in prison with the main character, Pieper, and their stories leave you feeling for them. It also makes you think about how you would survive in prison. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do well.
I think this eggplant lasagna was surprising and enlightening too, just like OITNB. It was surprising how much Marc and I both loved this dish and it was enlightening because I didn’t think I really liked eggplant. Turns out I do. Turns out Marc does, too. For some reason I always envision eggplant being mushy and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s a mushy vegetable. Luckily, there was no mush to be found in this eggplant lasagna. I think is due to two extra steps I took when making it: the salting the eggplant slices to extract some of the moisture and also baking the slices after they are coated in egg and bread crumbs. This step gets them nice and crispy before being layered with tomato sauce, a ricotta cheese mixture, and mozzarella cheese.
Paired with a light arugula salad, this was a delicious meal. It truly was like lasagna with the ricotta mixture, filled with fresh basil, garlic, and a hint of heat from the red pepper flakes. The dish was filling, warm, and comforting which was surprising given the “low-carb” aspect of the meal. If you’re one that needs a few carbs in your dinner you could definitely serve it with a loaf of French bread or atop a bed of pasta.
Even more reason to make this dish is that eggplants are in abundance in the markets right now and are cheap, too! This is the perfect dish to enjoy seasonal, budget friendly produce.
- 1 large eggplant or 2 small egg plants, about 2 lbs total, cut crosswise into rounds
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 (16 oz) container part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup freshly basil, chopped
- 1 (24 oz) jar of your favorite tomato pasta sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Cut eggplant into 1/4-1/2" slices and spread out on baking sheet.
- Sprinkle each piece with salt and let sit for 20 minutes.
- With a paper towel, dab each slice, removing formed condensation.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Combine 2 eggs and water in a shallow bowl.
- Place breadcrumbs in a second shallow bowl with a pinch of salt.
- Dip each piece of eggplant in egg mixture followed by breadcrumbs, making sure the bread crumbs adhere.
- Place on baking sheets and bake in oven for 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 15 minutes.
- In medium bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, red pepper, garlic, salt, ricotta, egg white, and basil.
- Stir well to combine.
- Spray 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.
- Spoon about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of dish.
- Layer half of the eggplant over tomato sauce.
- Top eggplant with 1 cup of the pasta sauce, followed by 1/2 of the ricotta filling, followed by 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat again, starting with the remaining eggplant, 1 cup pasta sauce, remaining ricotta filling, and remaining 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Cover and bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.
- Remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until cheese is golden brown.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve.