I have a lot of favorite recipes that I like to make, my Meat Lasagna is one of Wee Bears favorites. A lot of my favorites I have carefully crafted on my own, tweaking and adjusting, trying to perfect over time - adding a little something here, a little something there. I have mostly chosen these recipes based on the positive feedback that I have received from Wee Bear, family and friends. Each time I knead the dough or caramelize the onions, each time I make one of these recipes for the 10th, 15th, or 30th time, I can feel history shaping. For an actor it may be the performance of a lifetime, for a poet the perfect sonnet, for a scientist, winning the Nobel prize, but for me...... I'm assuming many others are out there! It will be my signature recipes that I am remembered for........ along with a few other things!
This recipe I adapted from my meat lasagna, which has been tweeked over the years, however, NO MEAT? Wee Bear didn't even look at it! But, last week a had 40 guests for a Halloween sit down dinner at my home. I wanted to offer a vegetarian option for those that do not eat meat or noodles. Let me just say, the reviews from every guest who chose the vegetarian option, "It is delish, can I have that recipe?" I used eggplant that I roasted first as the noodle, and sauteed mushrooms for the protein element. Every serving of the Vegetarian Eggplant lasagna was eaten...............
Vegetarian Eggplant lasagna
2 large eggplants, sliced 3/4-inch thick (8 slices, peeled or not peeled)
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided plus more for baking dish
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces thinly sliced mushrooms
2 tsp. thyme
1 pkg. cream cheese
1 carton small curd cottage cheese
2 c. Mozzarella cheese grated
2 T. freshly chopped oregano leaves
2 c. Marinara Sauce, recipe follows or 1 jar Classico bottled Tomato Basil marinara
Home made Marinara Sauce
5 cloves garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 c. fresh basil leaves
2 T. fresh oregano leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Arrange sliced eggplant in a single layer on 2 sheet pans. Brush on both sides using 3 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the eggplant until it is soft and golden. Turn slices halfway through, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the sliced mushrooms. Saute until soft for about 7 minutes. Add the thyme. Cook for another 2 minutes. Once the mushrooms are cooked remove salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.
Using a electric mixer mix together the softened cream cheese and the cottage cheese.
Brush an 8-inch baking dish with oil.
Spread half of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lay 4 slices eggplant on top, followed by the cottage cheese mixture, all the mushrooms, then sprinkle half mozzarella over. Lay another 4 slices of eggplant cottage cheese mixture and finish with marinara sauce. Top with the remaining mozzarella. Bake until golden brown, at 350 degrees, for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel 5 cloves garlic and place them in a square of foil. Sprinkle the cloves with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Wrap up the foil and place it directly on the oven rack. (Be sure that the foil packet is secure so no oil will leak out.) Roast the garlic until it's brown and tender, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool enough to touch and squeeze the garlic from the skins. Set aside.
Saute onions and carrots with the oil in a medium saucepan. Add tomato paste and stir well. This will cook off the tomato paste and give a nice orangy color. Cook for about 10 minutes. When vegetables are softened add the roasted garlic, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and stir together until incorporated. Pour in the tomatoes. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pan. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Once sauce is ready carefully pour it into the food processor and puree until smooth.