Try this delicious Eggplant Lasagne Recipe from Alice Zaslavsky’s cookbook, The Joy of Better Cooking.
One of the first things you learn at culinary school is how to make béchamel sauce. It might seem strange to wait until the very last savoury dish in the book before we tackle that skill, but by now you’ll have absorbed the idea that learning to cook is not a linear process — it’s a journey, and a personal one at that. The puff of béchamel, the silky, slippery eggplant, the fact that you can make this gluten-free and/or plant-based with a few simple changes, finding shortcuts like cooking the onion in the preheating pan and using fresh pasta sheets instead of dried to save on washing up, all of these make this recipe a perfect bookend, and a whole lot of reasons to loosen your shoulders. And, as with most slow-cooks, it’s a weekend project that only tastes better by Monday night.
Ingredients (serves 4-6 plus leftovers)
1 brown onion, finely diced
3–4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
A chef’s pinch of salt flakes, plus extra for salting the eggplant
A chef’s pinch of brown sugar for the onion, and another chef’s pinch for the sauce
2 x 400 g (14 oz) tins whole peeled cherry tomatoes
1 cup (250 ml) tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of basil, finely chopped
3–4 medium eggplants (aubergines), about 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz), cubed
375 g (13 oz) fresh pasta sheets (see Subs)
Crusty bread, to serve
Make Your Own pizza cheese
2/3 cup (100 g) shredded mozzarella
1 cup (100 g) grated cheddar
½ cup (50 g) finely grated parmesan
50 g (1½ oz) butter
1/4 cup (35 g) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 cups (500 ml) milk
A fresh scraping of nutmeg
1/2 cup (50 g) finely grated parmesan
Ground white pepper, to taste
Pop the onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt and sugar in a large high-sided baking dish. Whack into a cold oven, then crank the temperature to 190°C (375°F) so it starts to cook as the oven heats up (about 20 minutes).
Once the onion is translucent and starting to caramelise, scoop the whole lot out into a bowl. Add a pinch of brown sugar and the tinned tomatoes, rinsing the tins out with a tablespoon of water and pouring the dregs in, too. Stir in the passata, oregano and most of the parsley and basil, leaving some herbs for garnishing. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
Add the eggplant to the baking dish, drizzle with 2–3 tablespoons oil and toss to coat. Roast for 40–50 minutes, until super caramelised, then remove from the dish and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, add the flour and stir for 2–3 minutes. Start pouring the milk slowly into the buttery flour mixture (roux), while stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping the roux from the edges of the pan. Add the nutmeg. Change over to a whisk and cooking until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil (around 7–10 minutes), whisking from time to time to help break up any lumps. Once thickened, add the parmesan and turn off the heat, still whisking until the parmesan melts in. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
In a bowl, toss together your pizza cheeses to combine.
To assemble, spread a spoonful or two of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Place a layer of pasta sheets on top. Spread one-third of the tomato sauce over, then half the eggplant, and sprinkle with one-third of the pizza cheese. Cover with another layer of pasta sheets. Add another layer of tomato sauce, the remaining eggplant, then cheese, then pasta. Finish with a final layer of the tomato sauce. Pour the béchamel sauce over and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and bubbling at the edges.
Serve drizzled with a little olive oil and garnished with the remaining herbs, with plenty of crusty bread to mop up all the saucy bits. Some peppery rocket (arugula) leaves would be an ideal side here, too.