If you’re anything like me, after a week of indulging in large stuffed birds, racks of meat and buckets of seafood your tummy needs a break. Starting every Christmas eve straight through to New Year’s day, it’s seven days and nights of feasting in honour of the holidays – that’s as good a reason as any! I try to watch my portions but turkey, beef and seafood in any quantity becomes an internal belly workout when eaten in daily succession.
Last night, I hit the wall. Ignoring my carnivorous husband still salivating for anything roasted, as long as it’s protein based not including tofu, I reached past the lamb shanks and headed straight for the vegetables.
When I food shopped for our trip to the farm, I anticipated this moment. It happens every year! Also, knowing I would want to spend as much time as I could playing in the snow, hold on to your hat, I bought pre-made fresh lasagna sheets. I did. They are thicker than I like, true, but not so thick that I was willing to trade an hour of snowmobiling for an hour of pasta making. So with my slightly thicker than I would like commercial pasta, an eggplant, a long red sweet pepper, fresh thyme, garlic, some ricotta, fresh mozzarella and a can of pezzettoni, a new winter lasagna was born. Pezzettoni is canned diced Italian plum tomatoes in a thick puree which can pick up at most Italian grocery stores.
It’s quick, fresh tasting and completely unorthodox. I didn’t make a sauce. I spooned the tomatoes straight from the can. I’ll give you a second to pick yourself up off the floor. You’ll have to trust me that once in the oven the flavours melt together and produce a stunning new twist on the lasagna your mother made. Not necessarily better, I know how protective we all are for anything our moms make, just different and definitely delightful after all that meat.
preheat oven 375*F
extra virgin olive oil
8 – 1/4″ thick slices eggplant
1 red sweet bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
3 sheets oven ready fresh pasta
1 cup ricotta, drained
1/2 cup Parmigiano, shredded
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves picked
1 clove of garlic, crushed through a garlic press
1 – 28 ounce tin pezzettoni
1 – 8 ounce ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 16 slices
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Place eggplant slices on a plate and sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt. Allow to sit for 1 hour to extract any bitter juices.
In the meantime, saute pepper slices in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until just tender – about 5 minutes then set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, grated Parmigiano and slightly beaten egg until well mixed – set aside
Once the hour is up, pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towel and remove salt
Place a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat and warm 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Once the oil is hot, gently fry the eggplant slices until golden on both sides – set aside.
Using a baking pan slightly larger than I sheet of pasta and 2 ” deep, cover the bottom with 1/3 of the pezzettoni. Sprinkle 1/2 of the picked thyme leaves, ground black pepper and half of the crushed garlic over the tomatoes.
Place a sheet of fresh pasta over the tomato mixture.
Cover the pasta evenly with the eggplant then sprinkle with the sautéed peppers.
Cover the vegetables with 8 pieces of fresh mozzarella
Next a layer of fresh pasta evenly covered with the ricotta mixture.
Another layer of pasta covered with remaining tomatoes
Sprinkle with the rest of the fresh thyme leaves, ground black pepper and crushed garlic
Finishing with the remaining 8 slices of mozzarella
Place lasagna in preheated oven until browned and bubbly – about 35 minutes
Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.
THE LOVE: Putting your lasagna dish on top of a baking sheet while it’s in the oven will save your oven from a possible mess! And of course making your own pasta would knock it out of the park!
Thanks for reading
One year ago: meatloaf for a chef