This recipe is life-changing for me y’all. I adore a good, cheesy lasagna but because we are pretty much grain-free at our house, it’s not something I get to enjoy often. Until today! I’m thrilled to share my discovery and a clean and healthy Italian comfort food dish I would be thrilled to serve to friends. And the secret ingredient is…you guessed it…
Sliced and roasted eggplant! As long as you peel and slice the eggplant about ¼ inch thick and salt it for awhile to get the excess liquid out, you’ll be fine. It takes a bit longer to cook than boiling noodles in water but it’s a more nutrient dense option than pasta plus it really holds up well to the sauce and cheese. The salting adds more time but if you’re gluten-free, you won’t mind the delay one little bit. And it’s a great vegetarian, gluten-free and paleo option for guests.
I’ve had lasagna made with ribbons of zucchini which is fine but a little too limp and watery for my taste. Of course you can always use gluten-free lasagna noodles but personally, I’ve yet to find a gluten-free pasta I like. But that’s just me Another wonderful attribute of eggplants is the fact that on their own they don’t have a lot of flavor so they’re the perfect bland choice to let the rest of your ingredients shine!
I need a little more tooth to my bite of lasagna if you know what I mean. Not mushy, not squishy but a noodle that can stand up to the sauce. Eggplant is a perfect solution!
I tested 2 of my tried and true lasagna recipes (making both in one big pyrex) and they worked beautifully! The first recipe is my absolute favorite mushroom lasagna that uses just fresh mushrooms, an easy nutmeg scented béchamel (which is simply a white sauce–and I’ve got the gluten-free recipe for you below) and freshly grated parmesan cheese. The other is a simple meat-free version loaded with fresh ricotta, mozzarella and sauce. Both are so good! First I’ll give the recipe for the mushroom version then the more classic red version. Enjoy!
- 2 good sized eggplants (another good thing about eggplants is you don’t have to buy organic ones, conventional are fine!)
- ¼ cup sea salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Peel the eggplants. Slice off the ends and then, standing each on it’s end, slice eggplants the long way into ¼ inch slices.
- Sprinkle the sea salt generously on all sides of the eggplant slices. Let them sit in a colander for at least half an hour, up to an hour and a half. More is better. The salt will draw out the excess moisture (and any bitterness) which would otherwise cause the eggplant to be wet and soggy when cooked. Don’t skip this step if you want a lasagna to love.
- When you’re ready to cook the eggplant, rinse salt off in the sink and pat slices dry with paper towels, pressing to get all the moisture. Now you’re ready to cook.
- Lay your eggplant slices on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes or until beginning to soften and brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet.
Béchamel Sauce–Gluten Free
- 3 tablespoons organic butter
- 5 tablespoons sweet rice flour or brown rice flour
- 3 cups organic milk
- Salt, pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Sprinkle the flour into the butter and whisk until blended. When it starts to bubble, begin adding milk.
- Add milk, about ½ cup at a time and whisk to blend it into the butter and flour mixture. Cook until it begins to thicken and then repeat until the milk is gone.
- Keep cooking and whisking until the sauce is nice and smooth and beginning to thicken. It should easily coat the back of the spoon. You don’t want it runny but you do want it pourable. Add the nutmeg and whisk it in. Remove from the heat.
Mushroom Lasagna (with Eggplant Noodles)
- 1 1/2 pounds cremini, bella, white or portobello mushrooms
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablesppons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8-12 roasted eggplant noodles
- 1 recipe béchamel sauce
- Prepare mushrooms: Discard portobello mushroom stems and/or trim the ends of the cremini stems if using. Slice mushrooms. Or buy pre-sliced.
- While mushrooms are cooking start your Béchamel sauce. Recipe above.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter in the bottom of a large sauté pan. Cook half the mushrooms with a couple pinches of salt for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender and release some of their juices, tossing to make sure they cook evenly. Repeat with additional oil and butter, and remaining mushrooms.
- Assemble lasagna: Spread some of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of an 8 x 12 or 9 x 13 baking dish. Arrange a layer of eggplant noodles on top then more sauce (about 1/4 of what remains), 1/3 of the mushrooms and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Repeat two more times then top with a final layer of eggplant noodles, your remaning sauce and the last 1/4 cup of parmesan. Depending on how many slices of eggplant you have you’ll get 2 or 3 layers. Either is fine and equally delicious!
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
Classic Lasagna (with Eggplant Noodles)
- 1 (15 ounce) container of organic whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups freshly grated mozzarella
- 8-12 roasted eggplant noodles
- 4 cups tomato sauce
- 3 cups Gluten-Free Bechamel sauce
- Make your gluten-free béchamel sauce, see recipe above.
- In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, and the salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 450. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish. Spread the Béchamel all over the bottom.
- Layer 4 eggplant noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top that with ⅓ of your tomato sauce and ½ cup of the mozzarella. Depending on how many slices of eggplant you have you’ll get 2 or 3 layers. Either is fine and equally delicious!
- Repeat. You should end with noodles and then the last bit of sauce. Top it all with the remaining mozzarella cheese and the remaining parmesan. Cover dish tightly with well-buttered foil so it doesn’t stick to the cheese.
- Bake about 40 minutes. Take off the foil and bake another 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden and the lasagna is bubbling. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve.
- To freeze for future use, allow lasagna to cool completely, slice into serving pieces and wrap each piece two to three times in plastic wrap before freezing. Or make ahead and wrap the whole thing in plastic and freeze.
- You don’t have to make a béchamel for the tomato version but I think it adds such a creamy, incredible richness to lasagna. I always make it and now that I can make it gluten-free I can use it in so many recipes!
- Another gluten free noodle option is sliced polenta. I think grilled polenta slices would be marvelous with the mushroom lasagna as they would soak up all that lovely béchamel!
- If you are really pressed for time, you can use store bought sauce. It’s perfectly fine! I like RAOS MARINARA SAUCE
- Feel free to use your favorite meat sauce if you like. Or add Italian sausage.
What’s you favorite gluten-free substitution?