Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard

January 18, 2010

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How do you feel about lasagne?  (And do you spell it lasagna?)  I ask because my husband said something surprising the other night when I told him I was making it for a dinner party.  First he made a face and then he said, “It’s kind of like making spaghetti.”  Coming from him, that is basically an insult.  For reasons that aren’t totally clear to me, Randy hates spaghetti.  Give him some kind of delicious sauce on spaghetti and he won’t like it.  Give him the same sauce on fettucine and he will love it.  I don’t understand but I accept and don’t make spaghetti.

When pressed, he explained that he is used to me making really interesting and unusual things for dinner parties and that lasagne seemed boring and maybe even easy.  I’m sure there are easy ways to make lasagne but for me, it has always been a fairly long and involved process.  Making sauce, making various fillings, roasting vegetables.  Lasagne is not a throw together meal in my world.

What’s more, we were having some friends over for dinner who I don’t know all that well.  Actually, I know the wives well, but I have only met the husbands a handful of times.  I didn’t want to make something really out there (aggressively vegetarian, as I like to call it) and have people not eat it.  I also wanted to make something satisfying so that, if they are used to eating a lot of meat, they didn’t feel like they needed to stop for a hamburger on the way home.  Everyone likes lasagne, right?

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In my many cookbooks, I found a number of recipes that looked inticing.  But I decided against a béchamel sauce and that ruled out many of them.  I wanted something filling but I didn’t want a gut bomb and besides, Randy doesn’t do well with cream sauces.  I settled on this one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and I was very happy with how it turned out.  Hearty and flavorful but not too heavy or cheesy.  Eggplant and I are not the best of friends and I thought Madison’s idea to bake it and then chop it was genius.  Trying to saw through an eggplant round in a lasagne is difficult – pieces of eggplant are easy.  Finally, the greens in the ricotta filling are very welcome.  She calls for chard, I used red kale because I had some.  Their texture is welcome, the color makes it more interesting, and the “green” taste keeps it from being too rich.

Here is a silly little story.  I used to make a very good (but very time consuming) lasagne that featured two different vegetable fillings.  Whenever I made it, I would stress about the sauce.  The amount that the recipe yielded was on the skimpy side and I would fret about it all coming out right.  Not once did it occur to me to increase the amount of sauce I made.  I just stuck to the rules and stressed.  Now that I am older and wiser, I do things my way with lasagne.  I like mine saucy so I make extra sauce.  If the worst thing in the world is having too much homemade tomato sauce, then that is a pretty good world.  You can use it another night on another kind of pasta (not spaghetti!) or you can freeze it with beautiful results.  I give my recipe below, you will use ½ – ¾ of it for the recipe.  And if you would like to just use jarred sauce, I won’t tell anyone.

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Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Serves 6-8

1½ pounds fresh pasta sheets, or 1 box dried
Tomato sauce (about 2 cups, recipe follows)
1½ pounds eggplant, sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick
Olive oil
½ onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch green chard, leaves removed from the stems
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 dry white wine
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Prepare the sauce.  If you are using dried pasta, parboil it for a few minutes then drain it and lay out on a sheet pan so it doesn’t stick together.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Brush both sides of the eggplant lightly with oil.  Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 30 minutes in all.  Chop coarsely and set aside.  (DT: This step can be done one day ahead.  Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate.)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and garlic.  Stir frequently for 3 minutes.  Add the chard, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, cover and cook until the chard is tender and the pan is dry, about 10 minutes.  Turn the mixture out onto a cutting board and finely chop.  In a bowl, mix together the ricotta and the egg, then stir in the chard mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  (DT: This step can be done one day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.)

Oil a 9- x 13-inch baking dish.  Coat the bottom lightly with sauce and then cover with a layer of pasta.  Scatter a quarter of the Pecorino over the top and add a quarter of the eggplant, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella.  Follow with another layer of pasta and repeat for three more layers.  End with a layer of pasta and top with sauce.  (Sprinkle with more Pecorino if you like.)  Cover with foil.  (DT: The whole lasagne can be made one day ahead.  Keep covered and refrigerate.  It will need another 10 minutes or so of baking time.)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until heated through.  Remove the foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Dana’s Tomato Sauce
Makes a lot

Of course you can halve this recipe.

1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup good red wine
2- 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of sugar (optional)

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion along with a pinch of salt, and sauté until softened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir for another 2 minutes, then add the herbs.  Stir well to combine, then pour in the wine.

Cook, uncovered, until the wine is almost evaporated, then carefully add the two cans of tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook until the sauce has thickened, periodically crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a spoon, about 30 minutes.  Taste, adding salt and pepper as necessary and a pinch of sugar if the taste is metallic.  (In my experience, the better the tomatoes, the less of a need for sugar.)  If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can purée it with an immersion blender, or in a stand blender or food processor.  Let the sauce cool before you use a stand machine.



21 Comments »

  1. Some lasagne can be boring, but not this one! Love the eggplant and chard. I always mix up the veggies I add in depending on what is in season. Will have to try this one! Thanks!

    Comment by Maria — January 18, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

  2. That looks gorgeous Dana! Real comfort food. I too think Lasagne is not an easy option, especially if, like you say, you are preparing your filling and making your own sauces. Saying that it is always satisfying and well loved. I have to tell you, I too like lots of sauce on my pasta and also on my pizza :)

    Comment by Jacqueline — January 19, 2010 @ 12:09 am

  3. ha ha your husband… my husband is picky about onions. i have given up cooking with onions.. it’s sad because I LOVE onions and I always feel like I’m missing out on something incredible. This lasagna sounds fantastic! Looks healthy too. :)

    Comment by Sook — January 19, 2010 @ 12:37 am

  4. I spell it the Italian way “lasagne”, and I love this vegetarian version!

    Comment by Stacey Snacks — January 19, 2010 @ 1:55 am

  5. I know exactly what you mean about serving non-vegetarian’s a meal that doesn’t have vegetarian written all over it! It’s something I struggle with and usually just end up volunteering to bring dessert! But this lasagne looks perfect, I’ll have to make it soon. And bring on the sauce!

    Comment by Jacqui — January 19, 2010 @ 5:55 am

  6. Very nice lasagne! I found that making lasagna is quite challenging and not at all a throw – together – meal. It is hard to get the consistency right, so that it isn’t dry but still stays together. Yours looks perfect though!

    Comment by Salla@Goddess of Cake — January 19, 2010 @ 11:12 am

  7. Yum, looks delicious! I love eggplant!

    Comment by Tracy — January 19, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  8. Again…delicious! It looks so dense with flavor.

    We have an entire cupboard of pasta and in that entire cupboard there is probably only one box of spaghetti, if that. I think it might even have a little dust on it.

    Comment by Tracy (Amuse-bouche for Two) — January 19, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  9. That looks absolutely scrumptious, and you know I’m a omnivore to the nth degree. Maybe Randy would like to take a turn at making dinner for the next dinner party? Just sayin’.

    Comment by Chef Gwen — January 19, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

  10. I’ve had this recipe with a sticker glued to the page for a long time!

    glad you reminded me to try it – indeed, cutting through the usual round of eggplant in the lasagne is awkward

    Comment by SallyBR — January 19, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  11. Must be a lasagna kind of week :D I just posted about grilled veggie lasagna Monday too! Love your blog!

    Comment by Amy — January 19, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  12. looks and sounds delicious! I think lasagna (I spell it with an “a”) is totally guest worthy fare! and i love the idea of cubing the eggplant- i always have trouble with discs too.

    Comment by Emily Rose — January 19, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  13. “Lasagna is easy!?!” – what a total misunderstanding. I used to make lasagna before Robert was born, my fav. had spinach and ricotta and artichoke hearts. I’ve made lasagna a total of twice in the last 6 years. Too much time, too many dishes. I’ll get back to it though as I love it and I love freezing it. I finally made one at Christmas (with Andy’s mom watching the kids) with baby bear squash and spinach from Cooking Light. It was great.

    (I’m not really a fan of spagetti myself, reminds me of bad potluck dinners. I feel like Randy – same sauce on penne and I’m a happy girl.)

    Comment by Katie — January 19, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

  14. I like lasagne very much. And, I spell it both ways depending on the spelling of the recipe I’m using at the time. I also made one for company recently assuming that everyone likes lasagne. I was wrong. Not all 12 year olds like it (but the adults did). The eggplant and chard or kale sound great here!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — January 19, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  15. Lasagne is the culinary equivalent of getting into a bed laden with blankets; it is warm and comforting and familiar. And, often, it makes you want to nap. I adore eggplant, and wouldn’t have thought of pairing it with chard. But now that I consider it, it makes so much sense. Sounds delicious.

    Comment by tara — January 19, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

  16. Hold on, I have to sit down… That may just be the most gorgeous-looking lasagna I’ve ever seen!

    Comment by Koek! — January 20, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

  17. This looks perfect for a group of eaters with different tastes! I am always striving to find recipes everyone will enjoy, which is quite tricky. I think I will have to make lasagna now!

    Comment by fresh365 — January 20, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

  18. I love lasagna and think it’s a great dish to make for a group of people. There are lasagnas that are really easy to make but there are lots that aren’t, and like you said it’s something satisfying enough for a meat eater to eat. And now I want to go make lasagna…

    Comment by Ashley — January 31, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

  19. [...] wasn’t quite sure how it would taste from the recipe, to be honest, but knowing that my fellow food blogging pal Dana made it before was the extra assurance I needed to feel at ease making this for the first time and serving it to [...]

    Pingback by Eggplant-Chard Lasagne | Gourmeted.com — March 25, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

  20. Hi Dana… I usually just browse and really never leave a comment… hehe^^ I’ll try to be more of an avid commenter^^ I am trying to make the eggplant lasagna with baby spinach instead of chard. Should I saute that a bit and then mix it in or should I just mix it in with the ricotta as is (raw)?

    Comment by Sulki Choi — November 23, 2010 @ 4:28 am

  21. [...] on Tuesday. I’ve also got plans for something rich and hearty this week- I’m thinking a tasty vegetarian lasagne could be the [...]

    Pingback by Sparse Veg – A cooking blog - Kitchenist — February 6, 2011 @ 1:56 pm



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