Eat your vegetables:
I am going to start off right up front stating that I don't like vegetables very much. I have always had to force myself to eat them to stay healthy. And rarely do I find a sauce or recipe that can make them more appealing to me (try green beans Italian style). But I can swallow a lot of vegetables when I eat vegetable lasagna. So even if you don't like vegetables, I believe you will immensely enjoy this dish. If you are a vegetable hater, live on the wild side and try my recipe.
Ingredients (8 servings):
- 1 – eggplant, cut into ¼ inch slices along the length of the eggplant
- 2 – medium zucchinis, cut into ¼ inch slices along the length of the zucchini
- 1 – yellow pepper
- 1 – red pepper
- 2 tablespoons – extra virgin olive oil
- 1 – large red onion, chopped
- 6 cloves – garlic, minced
- ¼ cup – fresh basil (lightly packed in the cup), diced
- 6 14.5-ounce cans – diced tomatoes (I like Hunt's brand)
- ¼ teaspoon – red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon – salt
- 1 cup – cottage cheese (small curd)
- 8 ounces – mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup – fresh basil (lightly packed in the cup)
- 1 ½ pounds – mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 4 ounces – Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 pound – lasagna noodles (make fresh pasta dough if you can)
The vegetables (technically eggplant is a fruit)
Salt each side of the eggplant and zucchini slices and place them in a colander for 30 minutes. The process is called degorging which helps remove the bitter taste of fresh eggplant. Roast the pepper and start the sauce (see below) while you are degorging. After 30 minutes rinse the slices and dry with a towel. Place them in one layer on an oiled baking sheet (it will take at least 2 sheets and depending on the size of your oven you may need to cook in batches) and broil them on each side for about 5 to 10 minutes depending on how close they are to the broiler. You will know to turn both the eggplant and zucchini when the eggplant becomes dry and starts to brown. Once they have cooked, cut the eggplant and zucchini into 1-inch slices parallel to the width, place in a bowl, and set aside.
Cut the red and yellow peppers in half and remove seeds. Oil a baking sheet and place the pepper halves open side down on the sheet. Put the sheet under the broiler until they have roasted (about 10 to 15 minutes). The skin will get puffy and partially burn (see photo).
Once they have been roasted and cooled, remove the charred skin from the peppers (you do not have to remove all of the skin). Cut into ½ inch squares and add them to the bowl with the eggplant and zucchini.
Meanwhile, add olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat and cook the onions for about 10 minutes (until they are soft). Add the garlic and cook for another minute. At this point, place half of the onion and garlic mixture into the bowl with the eggplant, peppers, and zucchini. Keep the other half in the pan and add ¼ cup chopped basil, tomatoes, pepper flakes, and salt. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
In a food processor, add the cottage cheese, 8 ounces of mozzarella cheese, and basil and blend.
Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until done. Drain in a colander and rinse with cool water (so you can pick up the noodles with your hands). Try to remove as much water from the noodle before placing in the baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place some of the sauce in a baking dish to cover the bottom (the dish I typically use is about 10.5 x 14 x 2 inches). Add 4 lasagna noodles across and cover the noodles with sauce. Add some of the vegetable mixture and dollops of the cheese mixture to the layer (see photo).
Finally cover with a thin layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat to form at least a total of 3 to 4 layers of noodles depending on how large your baking dish is. Try to distribute the vegetables, cheese mixture, mozzarella and sauce evenly between the layers. Once you have finished, cover with a layer of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 45 minutes and the cheese begins to brown. Bon appétit.
Jack Botticelli - You can read more Italian recipes here
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