Recipe: Eggplant Parmigiana Lasagna

A recipe for a simple eggplant parmigiana lasagna with ricotta, homemade marinara, and béchamel sauce.

FOOD

1/7/20245 min read

I’ve written about this before, and my feelings haven’t changed: good food shouldn’t have gatekeepers. So long as you’re cooking food that’s delicious, filling, and satisfying, who cares how it ends up on the table.

Food influencers, everyone from Gordon Ramsay to Instagram and TikTok foodies, should bear in mind the responsibility of their platforms. This reminds me of an incident on Twitter a while back. A chef went on a diatribe about folks who use minced garlic in a jar being inferior cooks. He said this without taking into consideration that people may not have the time, means, or mobility to mince fresh garlic. Am I going to use pre-minced garlic or a jarred sauce? No. Am I going to say you can’t use either of those? Also no. I remember what it was like when it was easier and more affordable to use jarred sauce before I learned to make my own sauce.

That said, I’ve seen some of the things TikTok moms throw together, and while I’m happy you’re feeding your families, you could save money (and sodium levels) if you made some stuff and kept it on hand. I’m just saying.

(Like this weird taco tater tot casserole I saw? A jar of salsa, sure, but a cheese sauce is really too much for people to make? You need to open a jar of cheese dip? My other thought is that they could make healthier meals if they simplified things instead of dumping a bunch of jars and spice packets into a pan.)

Anyway, some may find the not-recipe recipes I post here difficult to follow because of the lack of measurements and step by step photos. If you don’t have any foundational knowledge about how to cook food, these recipes probably aren’t for you. I approach cooking as an intuitive thing, and I rarely ever measure when cooking on the fly. Instead, I taste my food as I go, and if something needs changing, I change it. However, I realize the ability to do this comes from experience, and that experience comes from using recipes, measuring every single thing, and making a lot of mistakes. Bottom line: cook. A lot.

The lasagna

How this recipe came about is that I had some things I needed to use up. An eggplant, because I wanted to make one of the eggplant recipes from a cookbook I bought in Sicily. Half a tub of ricotta, because I made whipped ricotta for our New Year’s charcuterie board. I have so many jars of tomato puree from my mother- and aunt-in-law that I’m sure I’m set for at least the next six months. Half-finished wedges of parmesan and pecorino.

My first thought was to make the eggplant rollatini recipe I was eying, with a side of pasta, but it wasn’t exactly what I was in the mood for. I was looking for something comforting and a bit gooey. After consulting with my husband, whose favorite food (after pierogi) is lasagna, I decided to put two ideas together. What happened is an eggplant parmigiana lasagna.

I didn’t have any mozzarella, so I opted for a béchamel sauce that I knew would add some creaminess. I sliced the eggplant about a quarter of an inch thin and soaked it in salted water for a few hours to brine it. I’m not a fan of ricotta in lasagna because of how it cooks up, all weird and grainy. So, I added an egg, a hefty pinch of salt, grated garlic, and herbs and mixed until it was quite loose and smelled, frankly, divine.

My sauce is always simple because it’s how I was taught. I usually cook it all afternoon, but I’ve learned that the bright acidity of a barely cooked but well-seasoned tomato sauce works better. Sauce in a lasagna is usually cooked twice, once in the pot, and again in the oven, so the less it’s cooked the better. I find that using a sauce that’s been simmering all afternoon turns kind of muddled and heavy after baking in a lasagna, so it’s best left for pasta.

When it comes time to assemble, I don’t follow any rules; I just make sure for every level of pasta there’s a bit of everything. This made two small trays of lasagna; my no boil noodles took up the whole dish. The less I have to mess around with fitting lasagna sheets together, the better.

Eggplant parmigiana lasagna
Eggplant parmigiana lasagna

Ingredients

Method

Eggplant Parmigiana Lasagna

EGGPLANT + PASTA (see note)

  • 1 eggplant, sliced and brined

  • olive oil

  • a few garlic cloves, smashed

  • lasagna sheets

  • grated hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino

MARINARA

  • olive oil

  • 1 small onion, diced

  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped

  • around 600ml of tomato puree

  • fresh basil leaves

  • salt + pepper to taste

RICOTTA

  • around half a container of ricotta

  • an egg

  • garlic clove, grated

  • a pinch each of dried parsley, oregano, and basil

  • salt + pepper to taste

BÉCHAMEL (see note)

  • a knob of butter

  • 1 tablespoon of flour

  • milk, about 1.5 cups

  • pinch of nutmeg

  • salt to taste

EGGPLANT

Slice and soak the eggplant in salted water for at least an hour. Drain and pat dry. Heat olive oil and a few peeled and smashed garlic cloves over medium-high heat until shimmering. Fry eggplant until golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Set aside.

MARINARA

Sweat onion in olive oil with a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. When the onions are translucent, add garlic. Don’t let anything brown or burn. Add the tomato puree and basil leaves. Simmer for half an hour.

RICOTTA

There’s really no method here; I put everything into a bowl and mixed and it was kind of soupy. I wasn’t looking for anything thick; it should be spreadable and garlicky.

BÉCHAMEL

Melt the butter until it’s foamy, and add your flour. I like to use a whisk. Let it cook until it turns a pale yellow and doesn’t smell like raw flour anymore. Slowly stream in milk, stirring continuously so there are no lumps. Stir frequently so the flour and milk don’t scald on the bottom of the pan, and when it’s just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, take it off the heat. Add a pinch of nutmeg and salt to taste, and you’re done.

ASSEMBLY

I didn’t pay attention to my layering; I just went with whatever pattern I felt like, and I’m 100 percent positive it wasn’t consistent. Anway, I like to mix the sauce and the béchamel together, so I did that in the bottom of the baking dish. Then a pasta sheet, then sauce, then eggplant, then grated cheese, then ricotta, then béchamel, then pasta, and repeat. Or however you feel you want to do the layers.

NOTES

  • Soaking the eggplant in salt water, especially when you're going to fry it, is insurance against soggy, oily eggplant. The water should be as salty as the water you cook pasta in. And if you're cooking pasta in plain water, please stop eating bland pasta.

  • Your oil will splatter if your eggplant is even a little damp, so make sure it's dry. Otherwise, it should sizzle (think: gentle applause) when you put it in the pan.

  • I have a jar of whole dried basil leaves; I used a very generous pinch here.

  • If you do have mozzarella, feel free to use it!