I used to make a vegetarian version of this years ago with eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, and sometimes mushrooms. I got the idea from an ex-boyfriend’s sister-in-law back in 2005! Until then, I had never considered swapping noodles for veggies sliced paper-thin. Personally I like a meaty lasagna especially if the rest is pretty healthy, which is why I added turkey sausage.
I do recommend using a mandolin for this. I don’t think anyone can get uniformly thin slices by hand. My mandolin is something I only use about 3-4 times per year, but there’s no replacement for it. It’s inexpensive and hardly takes up any room.
Lasagna noodles are dry, of course. Eggplants are made up of 92% water! There are 2 ways to avoid a soggy finished product. The first is to salt the sliced eggplant and let sit for a while on a towel before assembling the lasagna (the salt pulls water from the eggplant). The second is to wait until the lasagna is done and use a ladle to remove the rendered water after baking. I do the second thing because it’s easier and takes less time.
I used Italian turkey sausage removed from the casings in this recipe, but you can use beef, chicken, or even leave out the meat all together for a vegetarian dinner. This whole thing can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept covered in the fridge til it’s time to cook. If you are cooking it from the fridge, add about 15 minutes to the covered cook time.
I started with 2 fairly small eggplants for this and ended up with about 1/3 of an eggplant leftover. The reason I used small eggplants is because they fit better on the mandolin. For the leftovers, I’d already sliced it on the mandolin, so I decided to save it for something else. You can roast or grill it and toss it with pasta or serve it over a grain, add it to a salad, or make this. I’m an eggplant lover, so I definitely don’t let it go to waste.
Total Time: 2 hours (hands-on time: 1 hour)
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Extra virgin olive oil
20 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage, removed from casings
36 ounces of your favorite marinara sauce
2 tablespoons garlic powder, divided
3 tablespoons dried oregano, divided
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 small eggplants (or 1 large), rinsed
24 ounces part skim ricotta
12 ounces grated part skim mozzarella, divided
6 ounces grated parmesan cheese, divided
Salt and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add the turkey sausage. Break it up as it cooks. When it’s broken up and cooked through, add the marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon of the garlic powder, 2 tablespoons of the dried oregano, and the red pepper flakes. Stir together to warm through and combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Meanwhile, while the sausage is cooking, prepare the eggplant. First trim the top off, then slice in half lengthwise. Carefully slice on a mandolin. The pieces should be about the shape and size of a regular lasagna noodle!
- Make the cheese filling by combining the ricotta, 8 ounces of the grated mozzarella, 4 ounces of the parmesan, 2 eggs, the remaining garlic powder and oregano (1 tablespoon of each), salt and pepper.
- If cooking right away, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Assemble the lasagna. In a large casserole dish, start with a layer of the marinara/sausage mixture in a thin layer. Next is a layer of eggplant, and last is a layer of the ricotta mixture. Use a rubber spatula to spread the ricotta mixture. Repeat the layers until you’re out of the ricotta and marinara. (I get about 3 layers of each and try to end with a ricotta layer).
- Top with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan and with the dried parsley (for color)
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil. (Here’s where you can chill this for up to 2 days in advance).
- Bake covered at 375 for 40 minutes. Uncover, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and continue to cook for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before cutting into it.