A New Take on Lasagna

The holiday season is one that can be both rewarding and stressful.  It involves a lot of travel, eating and family time. I for one am challenged by managing my time with friends and family while traveling across the country to the cold northeast.

It also involves a lot of cooking for family dinners, work parties and potlucks.  If you have been blessed with the ability to cook, then you know the great responsibility of feeding everyone during the holidays.

I love the food we eat around the holidays because there are so many memories attached to the dishes served, many of which have been prepared since before we ourselves were old enough to cook.  These are different for every family depending on cultural and geographic origins. Many native Italians recreate the feast of seven fishes. In Venezuela and other parts of Latin America, Hallacas are arduously prepared every year, and Christmas dinner in Japan typically features fried chicken.

For my family, it is more of an Italian-American spread of lasagna, vegetable sides and garlic bread on the night before Christmas and a roast ham for Christmas supper.  Whatever your family’s traditions may be, it is important to continue to pass on these customs to younger generations. They may not care now, but they become more meaningful as time goes on

I like to use this as an opportunity to teach friends and family more about the benefits of cooking healthy meals themselves, rather than resorting to restaurant or take-out meals that can be both expensive and unhealthy.  For many, cooking seems to utilize a bit of sorcery that feels out of their grasp. By recruiting others to help, you can begin to show them the rewards of becoming independent in the kitchen.

In these situations I challenge myself to recreate nostalgic recipes with healthier ingredients while still achieving the same flavor that conjures up so many memories.

This year I took on the classic lasagna recipe.  Lasagna is typically high in carbs and fats without containing much by way of vegetables.  To avoid this, I swapped out the pasta for eggplant. After all, who doesn’t love eggplant parmesan?  This does require a little bit of olive oil to get the eggplant tender as it cooks, it also adds a serving of vegetables to the final dish while reducing the number of carbs.  

I then make the sauce from scratch to have more control over how much fat is added from oil, and to the same end using 90% lean ground beef. While this might seem daunting, being able to cook a homemade red sauce is one of the most versatile skills you can have in the kitchen.  It can then be used in anything from pizza sauce to pasta sauce and you can tailor it to your own tastes every time.

Using low-fat or fat free ricotta helps to balance out any fat from the olive oil we used on the eggplant and in the sauce.  Simply whisk together with the eggs, a little parmesan and of course salt and pepper and you are ready to assemble the lasagna.

Begin with a layer of sauce on the bottom, followed by a layer of eggplant.  They do not necessarily need to be overlapping, I just try to spread them out so you do not have all large pieces on one side and small ones on the other.  Add a thin layer of the cheese spread over the eggplant and repeat this process until you have filled the pan.

This is a great recipe for family dinners, potlucks or for meal prep throughout the week.  One casserole dish should be enough to feed at least 8-9 people. This is also a great recipe to recruit other family members to help with, and the more you can delegate, the less work you have to do!

See the full recipe here!

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