16 January 2012

Melanzane and Zucchini Lasagna

A is for aubergine, e can mean eggplant which is the more common American name for the same vegetable and m is the beginning of the Italian word for melanzane. You know, that purple skinned vegetable that is oh so versatile and oh so abundant for a good portion of the summer. Now that it's winter and some ex pats living in Italy started a group a while back, to share recipes and food ideas, tips and tricks, they have put together a little challenge to share some recipes amongst ourselves and for us to share with you. I made this dish a couple of time this summer out of necessity, but never quite got around to posting it or actually coming up with a definite recipe. It is probably more suited to late summer when your garden and the market have an explosion of these three vegetables, that in my mind, go together like a three way blind date, eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes.  Whoa, I think I might be digressing. 
This holy trinity of veggies turn up in a number of dishes and so I have turned it into a definitely crowd pleaser, lasagna.  With a bit of grilling, which in the summer you might even have your grill up and running for some other type of meal in mind, you could maximise the use of your coals and get these ready for another dish for the next day even. I make use of a Rowenta electric grill that grills both sides of medium thick aubergine and zucchini slices and needs next to no oil to get them soft and flavorful with those great grill lines. I go the easy route in the summer using a ricotta and Parmesan cheese mixture, although you could easily make a bechamel sauce and layer them up and away you go. I made one version with some sauteed porcini mushrooms and that added another great dimension to the lasagna. Like most great lasagna, the flavors improve after sitting a day as they have time to settle in and mingle. I think you can easily get away with canned tomatos instead of fresh in the winter and one friend asked about using reconstituted dried eggplant. I think they would work just fine, although she never did get back with me and say how it worked out.  I like the grilling of the veggies for the smoky flavor, but also it seems to use less oil with out compromising any flavor. If you think your veggies are too dry, them by all means drizzle a bit of extra virgin oil over your veggies as you layer them up. If this is not for you this winter then I recommend you book mark it for next summers abundance and tell me what you think after giving it a go. 

Melanzane (Eggplant/Aubergine) and Zucchini Lasagna


2 large eggplant/aubergine/melanzane, peeled and sliced lengthwise in medium thick slices,
2-4 large zucchini
4-6 large tomatoes, fresh or a large can of crushed or diced tomatoes
Basil, handful fresh,
1 large or 2 medium eggs500g (2-12 oz containers) Ricotta
200g (1c ) Parmesan or other hard grating cheese, and a bit more for topping
1/4 t or less nutmeg, fresh gratedSalt and pepper
Hot red pepper

Feel free at add any tidbits of goat or other flavorful cheese you might have kicking around begging to get used up. This recipes lends it self to much variation.

Wash and prepare your vegetables, slicing them lengthwise so the are about 1/4"/1/2cm thick. Heat your grill up and begin grilling your vegetables, while you prepare the remainder of your ingredients.
Wash and pat dry the basil and cut up into thing strips, or if you prefer, tear into bite size bits
In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg and Parmesan cheese. Add a few good gratings of nutmeg.
Season the cheese mixture with salt, pepper and a pinch of hot pepper.
Take a 9"x13"pan, or something equivalent, and grease with olive oil or or line with baking paper, like I do for an easy clean up.
Drizzle a bit of olive oil and begin you vegetable layering with grilled slices of aubergine laid singly sibe by side to cover the bottom and cover with a single layer of the zucchini, sprinkling a bit of salt and olive oil if you haven't seasoned the vegetables while grilling. Spread 1/3 to half of the
ricotta mixture over they layered vegetables. Cover the cheese, with a single layer of sliced tomatoes or part of your crushed tomatoes, sprinkle some salt over and scatter about 1/3 of the fresh basil. This is not a super tomatoey saucy version, so it doesn't have to be a solid layer of crushed tomatoes, but a solid layer of sliced tomatoes is good. 
Continue layering 2 more times if you have enough ingredients ending with the tomatoes as the top layer. Try to use the last of your basil under the tomatoes for the top layer so it doesn't burn. Sprinkle a light layer of parmesan on top. 
Cover loosely with another layer of paper and aluminum foil. Try to keep above the top so it doesn't stick to the top layer.  
Bake in a preheated 350*/190* for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake a few minute langer till bubbly and the top browned up.
Let the lasagna rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Usually even more flavorful the second day. You make it one day ahead before cooking.


bellini said...

Such a healthy version of lasagna packed with flavour!!!

Bella Baita View said...

Thanks Belli, try it, I think you'll like it.

Sarah in deepest darkest Lomellina said...

Sunday lunch- Sorted!

Looks great and might stop me doing my usual Sunday afternoon "fall asleep in a dribbling heap of too much carbohydrate" thing.

Bella Baita View said...

Thanks Sarah, that gave me a good chuckle for the morning.

Tuscany Villas said...

Thanks for sharing yuuummy Melanzane and Zucchini lasagna.

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