Every year Hubs makes me a special meal to celebrate my birthday. In the early years of our marriage, I would request his ‘Death to Dieters’ lasagna – the most decadent lasagna on Earth: laden with meat, noodles, cream, cheese (aka a heart attack on a plate)!
As time went by, and we became more mindful of staying healthy, my eating habits changed for the better and we endeavour to go meatless more often than not. This year, my birthday dinner request is Hubs’ roasted eggplant lasagna. And you know what? It’s every bit as decadent as his ‘Death to Dieters’ lasagna. It’s not only delicious, it’s gluten-free, meat-free, pasta-free and low in carbs!
Most of all: it’s guilt-free; it’s not only for special occasions, like my birthday, but any day I happen to crave it. And believe me, once you try it, you’ll crave it too! Grab some eggplant and let’s get cooking!
- 3-4 large eggplants — cut crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices (we had about 14 slices on each tray for a total of 42). Note you can leave the skin on, take it off or do what I do and compromise. I cut ribbons of skin from the eggplant.
- Avocado oil spray — or 2 1/2 tablespoons of any high smoke point oil divided
- 1/2 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or high smoke-point oil)
- Sea salt (for salting eggplant)
- 1 teaspoon pink himalayan salt — divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper — divided
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 16 ounces sliced cremini and/or white mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic — minced
- 1 (26-ounce) jar marinara pasta sauce of choice (I used an organic sauce)
- One (17-ounce) container ricotta cheese of choice (I used sheep milk)
- 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach — thawed
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan — divided
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup shredded cheese of choice — I used up what I had in the fridge; a 4 cheese blend (provolone, mozzarella, romano, edam) and a three cheese blend (mozzarella, cheddar, swiss cheese)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, thyme, or parsley (optional)
- Paper towels
- Cutting board
- 3 Sheet pans
- 9″ x 13″ baking pan
- Large skillet
Prepare the sheet pans by laying on a single layer of paper towels.
Arrange Sliced Eggplant
Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with plenty of salt. Don’t worry if it seems like a large amount of salt; it will all be rinsed off.
Arrange slices in a single layer on the 3 sheet pans.
Set aside for .5 – 1.5 hours to let the salt do its thing and draw out the moisture.
Rinse Salt and Dry
Rinse the salt off the eggplant with water.
Let drain in a colander.
Return slices to the sheet pans (lined with new paper towel).
Add another layer of paper towel on top.
Then put a cutting board on top. Push down to squeeze out the moisture. (This only works if your cutting board is smaller than the rim of our sheet pan).
Fllip the hole thing over so the cutting board is now on the bottom and you can lift the sheet pan off the top. This allows you to free up the sheet pan for the next step.
Prepare Baking Pan and 3 Sheet Pans
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with avocado oil spray (or high smoke-point oil of your choice) and set aside.
Add a piece of parchment paper to each of the 3 sheet pans.
Spray the parchment paper with avocado oil (or evenly spread on a high smoke point oil).
Arrange eggplant slices on the sheet pans.
Roast Eggplant in Oven
Set the timer for the first 15 minutes and put sheet pans into the oven.
Roast the eggplant for 15 minutes or until the bottom side is golden. Then flip the eggplant slices over. Rotate the pans and put them back into the oven to roast for another 15 minutes or until golden on the other side.
Meanwhile, as the eggplant is roasting, heat the 1/2 tablespoon grapeseed oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the sliced mushrooms. Saute until the mushrooms are soft, about 7 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp. pink himilayan salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and oregano.
Then add the minced garlic and cook for another minute until the garlic is fragrant.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the marinara pasta sauce and stir to combine. Set aside until assembly.
Remove the trays of eggplant from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl mix the egg, then add the ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix well, until the mixture is evenly combined.
Stir in the spinach, using a fork to break it up and distribute it as evenly with the ricotta mixture as possible.
Spoon half of the mushroom marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish and spread it into an even layer.
Lay 1/2 the eggplant slices on top.
Follow by all of the ricotta mixture.
Layer on the remainder of the eggplant.
Add the remaining mushroom marinara sauce.
Finally, top with the remaining ¼ cup parmesan…
… and shredded cheese.
Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is hot and bubbly.
If desired, put under the broiler for 5 minutes to brown. I love the crispy bits; there’s nothing better than a corner piece!
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs (optional). Let rest 5 to 10 minutes to set up, then serve.
Serve with a salad and behold a sumptuous birthday dinner that I can’t wait to dig into!
In good health!
Pinning is always welcome and appreciated
A Few Additional Tips:
By cutting the eggplant crosswise into rounds when you prepare it, you can easily cut the lasagna with a spatula – no knife required that might scratch your pan!
This recipe tastes even better the next day when all the flavours meld together. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days (if it lasts that long)! Rewarm in the microwave or covered with foil in a 350 degree F oven, until heated through.
I don’t recommend freezing this dish, as eggplant becomes waterlogged when frozen and thawed.
You can prepare the ricotta and mushroom sauce layers a day in advance if you prefer. Keep each layer separate in the refrigerator until ready to prepare. Assemble just before baking or up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerate. When you’re ready to bake, let the lasagna stand at room temperature while the oven is preheating.