As the son of immigrants – one Greek and one Italian – there are certain foods that were significant in my upbringing. Most of them included plenty of ingredients that I no longer make a regular part of my nutrition plan . . . mostly pasta. But avoiding pasta doesn’t mean that I have to avoid my childhood favorites. I still love a fresh baked lasagna. Here’s a recipe that will allow you love it too:
On a piece of tin foil, place 5–8 cloves of garlic and smother in olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic like a little Hershey kiss, and place in a 350*F oven for about 20 – 25 minutes. Set aside to cool. While the garlic is cooking, peel the skin off two eggplants and slice in thin rounds. Sprinkle them with salt and set aside on a paper towel to allow some of the moisture to come out.
Now it’s time to make your sauce. In a large pan (I prefer a cast iron one—like a Dutch oven) thoroughly cook 1 lb of ground beef or buffalo along with ½ lb ground Italian sausage and allow the edges to get brown and crispy. Add 2–3 zucchinis and one onion (all roughly chopped). Cook over medium to medium-high heat until zucchinis are soft and onion is translucent. Add roasted garlic, 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, a splash of red wine, and a generous amount of spices (salt, pepper, dried oregano, marjoram, thyme, red pepper flakes). Don’t be afraid to use too much of the oregano and thyme—these will make your house smell like a pizza shop and the sauce taste amazing! Partially cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer while you make the eggplants (this will probably take about half an hour).
Cook the eggplant slices in batches in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. You’ll need plenty of oil to allow the eggplants to get soft (almost mushy) and a little brown and crispy on the outside. Place the cooked eggplant slices on paper towels to help drain off some of the oil.
Once the eggplant is cooked, you may need to allow your sauce to reduce a bit more (you don’t want it watery). If necessary, turn the heat up on the sauce, remove the cover, and allow to cook, stirring frequently, until it is thick and chunky.
To make the “lasagna,” spread a layer of eggplant slices in the bottom of a square glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with some of the sauce, then do another layer of eggplant, some sauce, and so on until your ingredients are all gone. Bake at 350*F for approximately 20 minutes and voila…dinner is served. This makes for delicious leftovers too!
**Note: We usually do a vegetarian version of this to eat at night, and then just cook up the buffalo/sausage combo separately to put on top of leftovers for lunch. For a vegetarian version (which is plenty filling), omit the meat and heat several tablespoons of oil in the Dutch oven prior to adding the zucchinis.