February 11, 2011
Posted by on
Making Italian American classics like lasagna gluten free is a challenge. One can use gluten-free noodles—in my opinion generally inedible—or you can just eliminate the noodles entirely and use slices of eggplant in their place. The result is a bit like eggplant parmesan but with layers of oozy ricotta filling. Because I am a fan of one dish meals with balanced nutrition I add some spinach to the cheese. The Italian sausage is optional but I like the spiciness it adds to the dish. If you leave it out consider adding a bit of crushed red pepper to the sauce. I use low-fat rather than non-fat ricotta and mozzarella because I think they have a better texture. Full-fat or non-fat would work equally well if you prefer. Buon appetitto!
A note on cutting the eggplant: I did it by hand and got 6 large center slices; next time I’ll use a mandolin and go for eight.
- 1 large eggplant
- Olive oil
- 1 link Italian sausage or 4 ounces bulk
- 4 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups marinara sauce, preferably homemade
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and chopped medium fine
- ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan
Preheat the broiler and, if you have one, a searing grid. Cut the top off the eggplant and peel it if you wish (I don’t). Cut into thin slices reserving the small side pieces for another use. Drizzle with olive oil on both sides being careful not to use too much—eggplant is like a sponge for oil. Working in batches if need be, grill for 3 to 5 minutes on a side. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°.
If using link sausage remove the casing. Film a pan with olive oil, set over medium heat, and crumble the sausage into it. Brown, stirring often, for about 3 minutes then add the mushrooms, sprinkle with ½ tsp. of salt, and continue to sauté until done, about another 3 to 5 minutes. Season with a generous grind of black pepper. Off heat, stir in the marinara sauce and set aside.
Combine the ricotta cheese, egg, spinach, and nutmeg in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil a suitably sized baking dish and cover the bottom with a thin coating of tomato sauce. Place two slices of eggplant over it with the tops at opposite ends. Spread with half the ricotta cheese mixture. Add two more slices of eggplant and cover with half the remaining tomato sauce. Continue with the rest of the ingredients. Cover the top with the mozzarella and sprinkle on the parmesan. Bake in the bottom of the hot oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is melted and lightly browned.