RECIPE

Eggplant Lasagna

For starters we had slices of ripe plums wrapped in speck. For the main we had Eggplant “Lasagna,” Pumpkin Pinci, and arugula simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Ingredients

SAUCE

  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 small rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small fresh pepperoncini pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • Leaves from 1 sprig oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 (28- or 32-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes (look for DOP on the label)

EGGPLANT LAYERS

  • 3 small-to-medium firm eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slabs
  • Salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 3/4 cups mixed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • EVOO
  • 1 pound spinach, stemmed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup diced easy-melting cheese (I used a young pecorino, but you could use mozzarella)
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation

Make the sauce: Char the bell peppers all over on the stovetop over a gas flame or under the broiler. Place the blackened peppers in a bowl and cover tightly. When cool enough to handle, rub off the charred skins with a paper towel, then halve and seed the peppers.Puree in a food processor.

In a saucepan, heat the EVOO (3 turns of the pan) over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, garlic, pepperoncini, oregano, rosemary, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Let the vegetables sweat out a little while. Add the wine and stir to let it cook out a bit. Then add the tomatoes, mashing them up a bit with a potato masher. Stir in the roasted pepper puree.

Prepare the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 250°F. Set a rack over a baking sheet.

Salt the eggplant slabs and drain them on kitchen towels while the oven is heating.

Line up 3 shallow bowls on the counter: Spread out the flour in one, beat the eggs in the second, and mix together the breadcrumbs, 1 cup of the grated cheese, and the parsley in the third.

Heat 1/4 inch of EVOO in a large skillet overmedium to medium-high heat. Coat the eggplant in the flour, then in egg, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to make sure the coating sticks.Working in batches, shallow-fry the eggplant until golden on both sides. Place on the rack in the baking sheet to keep warm and crispy in the oven as you work.

In another large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO (2 turns of the pan) over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and stir around until wilted. This should only take a few minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, chop.

Combine the ricotta, 3/4 cup of the remaining grated cheese, the diced cheese, cooled spinach, and a few gratings of nutmeg in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Put half of the sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, shingle in half of the eggplant, gently spread with all of the ricotta and spinach mixture, shingle in the other half of the eggplant, and top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup grated cheese. Bake until deeply golden brown, 30 to 45 minutes.

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