Eggplants make delicious lasagna, but traditional methods usually involve slicing and frying them in copious quantities of oil. Here, they are diced and simmered with flavouring ingredients to make a rich, zesty sauce.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
100 g mushrooms, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or 1 tablespoon dried oregano
6 fresh sage leaves, shredded, or 1 tablespoon dried sage
2 large eggplants, cut into 1 cm dice
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 large can (810 g) no-salt-added chopped tomatoes
pepper to taste
12 sheets fresh lasagna, about 250 g in total
450 g reduced-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons plain flour
100 ml low-fat milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
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Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the fennel and bay leaf, and cook for a few seconds, pressing the bay leaf with the back of a spoon to bring out its aroma. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, mushrooms, marjoram and sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes until the vegetables soften slightly.
Stir in the eggplant and lemon rind, mixing well. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the tomatoes with their juice and add pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the eggplant mixture for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
While the sauce is simmering, cook the lasagna in boiling water for 3–5 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain well and lay out the pieces on a clean tea-towel, in a single layer, to dry.
Puree the cottage cheese with the flour and egg in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the milk and process again briefly. Season to taste with nutmeg and pepper.
Pour half the eggplant mixture into a large rectangular or square ovenproof dish. Discard the bay leaf. Cover with half the lasagna, then add the remaining eggplant mixture and top with the rest of the lasagna, overlapping the pieces neatly.
Pour the cottage cheese mixture over the lasagna to cover it completely. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes or until the topping is set and deep golden.
Leave the lasagna to stand for 10 minutes before serving. This allows time for the pasta and sauce to cool and set slightly.
Eggplants do not have a strong flavour, but absorb other flavours in a dish well. They add ‘bulk’ for very few kilojoules.
Pureed cottage cheese makes a creamy base for a delicious low-fat lasagna topping.