Excess red meat intake is now convincingly linked to colorectal cancer and consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans is associated with a decreased cancer risk overall. As a result, many health professionals recommend eating at least one meatless meal each week. Although some Americans still balk at the notion of vegetarian dining, pasta-based meals – like this week’s eggplant lasagna – provide a perfect opportunity to go meatless.
The word lasagna has come to refer to the pasta itself, but some food historians suggest that the Italian lasagna comes from the latin term for “cooking pot,” lasanum. Others dismiss this etiology entirely, claiming that lasagna has British origins and was a favorite dish of Richard II in the 14th century. Despite the controversy, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: This simple dish is a favorite the world over.
Our recipe features roasted eggplant, which is a rich source of antioxidant compounds. Eggplant varies dramatically in size, color and shape; the most common variety in the U.S. is large and pear-shaped with a smooth, glossy, dark purple skin. Eggplant can have a bitter taste when raw, but when cooked it becomes tender and almost sweet. When buying, choose eggplant that is firm and feels heavy for its size. It is very delicate and perishable and should be stored in a cool, dry place.
Perhaps the most tedious (and messy) task of preparing lasagna – boiling and separating the noodles – is skipped entirely in this recipe. Instead, the dry uncooked noodles actually draw moisture from the sauce and cheese and soften during the baking process.
– Makes 12 servings
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 clove garlic, minced, divided
- 1 medium eggplant, diced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 (25 oz.) jars low-sodium tomato sauce
- 18 sheets no-bake lasagna noodles, preferably whole-wheat
- 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well drained
- 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute 1 clove minced garlic until light golden brown. Add eggplant and oregano and stir. Cover and cook until eggplant is tender (do not over cook), about 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile mix ricotta with Parmesan and remaining garlic. Set aside.
Cover the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish with 2 cups of sauce. Cover sauce with a layer of uncooked noodles. Top with a thin layer of sauce. Add the cooked eggplant and another thin layer of sauce. Distribute all the ricotta cheese evenly. Add another layer of noodles, followed by a thin layer of sauce. Add all the spinach and another thin layer of sauce. Add another layer of noodles and sauce.
Cover with baking dish cover or a sheet of wax paper followed by a sheet of foil. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Then uncover, sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and continue baking, about 15 minutes.
Per serving: 280 calories, 6 g total fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 41 g carbohydrate, 16 g protein, 8 g dietary fiber, 170 mg sodium.
(AICR) American Institute for Cancer Research – www.aicr.org.