Mary Anne here. This recipe was inspired by an acquaintance I’ll call J, who is the father of one of Mariel’s childhood buds. Earlier this spring, J ran afoul of the stair-lift entering his co-op, fracturing his femur, and becoming a patient at the hospital where I work. I have to share that J has advanced MS and is wheelchair-bound and it took him several days to realize he had broken his leg. As he put it, with perfect comedic timing, “Not feeling things is one of the benefits of having MS.” Seriously, J handled this horrific break with tremendous dignity and an enormous dose of humor. I was smitten.
Prior to the accident I had casually known J’s wife “P” through mutual friends and our children. During J’s acute recovery, I got to know P a whole lot better and was privileged to witness this couple’s shared optimism, easy laughter, and remarkable ability to cope under fire with love, grace and dignity.
Just before J was scheduled to be transported to a subacute short-term rehab, I asked him what his favorite food was so that I could deliver dinner when he finally returned home again. His only response was Eggplant Parm, but another of Mariel’s friends had already stocked their freezer with trays of the stuff from their family restaurant. Rats! J simply could not think of another thing that would please him more, but I continued to rack my brain. As Mariel said when I told her I needed to create this recipe, “It’s all about the cheese, sauce, and eggplant anyway”, so lasagna it is. Here’s to you, J & P!
1 large eggplant cut and sliced into ¼” rounds – $2.79
5 Tablespoons olive oil, divided – stock
1- 8 oz. package no-boil (oven-ready) lasagna – $1.99
1 small Vidalia onion, diced – $1.11
3 oz. prosciutto, chopped – $3.29
3 cloves garlic – stock
2 (15 ½ oz. each) jars good-quality spaghetti sauce (I used 1 Vodka sauce and 1 Marinara) – $5.00
½ cup dry red or white wine – optional
½ cup fresh Basil leaves, torn – $0.99
1 ½ Teaspoons dried oregano – stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten – stock
1- 15 oz. container ricotta cheese – $3.29
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese – $1.10
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced – $4.19
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $23.75
Total Per Serving: $2.38
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Sweat the eggplant: place the slices on cookie racks lined with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of each round and allow to sweat on the countertop for 20 minutes. (This extracts the bitterness.) After the allotted time, blot the eggplant slices dry with fresh paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, prepare a rimless large cookie sheet by spreading 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil evenly over the surface. Place the eggplant slices on the cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes per side or until golden on both sides. Transfer to a platter and set aside.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13” lasagna pan.
4. Heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Cook the onion until beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and chopped prosciutto and sauté and additional 5 or 6 minutes until the prosciutto begins to crisp and turn brown at the edges.
5. Meanwhile, pour the 2 jars of sauce into a large pot. Bring to a simmer. Increase the flame and add the wine if desired. Stir in the onion-prosciutto mixture, basil, and oregano. Reduce the flame and add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently for another 2 or 3 minutes.
6. In a medium bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, and Parmesan, mixing thoroughly until blended.
7. In the prepared lasagna, spread a layer of the tomato sauce, follow with 3 sheets of the no-boil lasagna (they will expand with the baking). Top with a layer of the ricotta mixture followed by about 1 cup of the sauce. Top with the eggplant (The amount will depend on how large your eggplant is. I got 1 layer out of mine.) Cover with some of the mozzarella. Repeat until all of the ingredients are used, ending with a thin layer of the sauce topped by the last of the mozzarella.
8. Cover loosely with tin foil (it shouldn’t touch the tomato sauce as it’s reactive and will taint the flavor.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until beginning to bubble.
9. Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 minutes to lightly brown the top cheese. Allow the casserole to rest for 15 minutes before serving.