Meaty Lasagna with Eggplant Noodles

Eggplant “faux” lasagna is another meal idea which I have seen referenced several times in the 4-HB circles.  So, again, I had to give this one a shot! This turned out really tasty (and hardy!).  I have to be honest – the active cook time is a bit longer than most of my other recipes on here; but sometimes it’s that extra work and time that makes the flavor simmer right on up to its tastiest potential! I guarantee there are a number of ways to cut down on the meat/tomato sauce time, if you so desire.  But overall, I am pleased with the concept; and am thrilled with how well eggplant worked in this scenario as a substitute for lasagna noodles.  Furthermore, I always dig having leftovers in the fridge for any lazy mealtimes the remainder of the week!

Ingredients:

For the “noodles”:
2 large eggplants
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
1.5 lb ground beef (can be substituted with ground turkey, sirloin, etc.)
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1 28-oz can, diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can, tomato paste
1 8-oz can, tomato sauce
1/3 cup, water
1.5 tsp, Italian seasoning
2 tsp, dried basil
1 tsp, garlic powder
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 cup, baby spinach leaves
1 tsp, red pepper flakes (optional)

For the “cheesy” layer”:
1.5 cups cottage cheese (I used 1.5% milkfat)
1 tbsp, pesto sauce (Trader Joe’s has a good pre-made one)
2 eggs, beaten

Directions:

  • Chop the green bell pepper and onion into large chunks.  Dump into a small food processor along with the garlic, and process until well-chopped and combined.
  • Combine the contents from the food processor with the ground beef (by hand is easiest).
  • In a large dutch oven or pot, cook the meat over medium heat until browned.

  • Pour in the cans of tomatoes and the water, along with the Italian seasoning, salt & pepper, basil flakes, and garlic powder.  Stir to combine.
  • Reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid.  Continue to cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  • While the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Wash and peel the thick outer skin of the eggplants.  Discard the skin.

  • Slice the eggplant into approximately 1/4-inch rounds.  Place slices on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Lightly coat the eggplant in olive oil and season both sides with salt & pepper.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until eggplant softens.

  • In a separate bowl, beat together the 2 eggs; then combine eggs with the cottage cheese and pesto.
  • When the sauce has finished cooking, layer the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with 1.5 cups of the meat & tomato sauce.  Top with a layer of spinach leaves.

  • Place eggplant slices in a single layer over top of the leaves.

  • Top the eggplant layer with about half of the pesto cheese mixture; spread to evenly layer over the eggplant.
  • Add another 1.5 cups of the meat sauce over top of the cheese layer.
  • Place another layer of eggplant slices over top.  Layer with the remaining pesto cheese layer.  Depending on how much sauce & eggplant remain, continue by alternating with another meat sauce layer, followed by an eggplant layer, using the remainder of the meat sauce as the top and final layer. Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the top if you’d like to add some heat!

  • Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake at 375 F for approximately 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for another 25 minutes.
  • Leave to rest and cool for 10-15 minutes after removing it from the oven, then cut and serve!