Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant “Lasagne”

Lemony Pesto Ricotta

(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday I went on a wild cooking spree, working as I do,  at top speed,  to get several dishes prepared.  Then once the kitchen looked like it had been ransacked by a herd of  goats with ADD, I started in to clean it.  When I load the dishwasher, I know that my husband is pulled in two emotional directions.  On the one hand, he is glad that I’m the one loading it so he doesn’t have to.  On the other hand, he is nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, knowing that I will take a lot of creative license in my loading technique.  He is the one who first said, “Becky, you load a dishwasher just like a drunk monkey.”

In this case, a picture may be worth a paragraph of words:

Greg is my daughter’s stepdad, but in organization and cleanliness, you’d swear they were related by blood.  So, for fun, I sent the picture above to Rachel, and within minutes she sent me this side-by-side comparison:

People ask, “Do your dishes get clean when you load them this way?”  And I say, “Not all of them.  But, miraculously, about 90 percent of them DO!”  I can deal with the other 10 percent later, when I hurriedly run them through the dishwasher again.

Though the kitchen was a disaster for awhile, I did produce several mouth-watering dishes. (Some to be shared in later posts.)  The first dish I made was born from a love of the flavors in pesto, but discouragement with the pesto calories.  I wondered what it would taste like to fuse all the ingredients in classic pesto with ricotta cheese, cutting out the olive oil.  Part skim ricotta has a generous amount of protein while low in calories. I LOVED the results. Light, lemony and creamy with the crunch of walnuts, the zip of basil and garlic.  With the addition of a little Greek Yogurt it made a wonderful dip for veggies and topping for crostinis. (Small slices of French bread, toasted, usually with olive oil.)

Then I wondered how this “pesto ricotta” would taste with broiled  eggplant, in layers, with a marinara sauce?  I could have eaten the entire pan full of it, but my 22 year old nephew Jordan – who is living with us now, and had never had eggplant before in his life  – beat me to it!  He gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up.  It’s an easy, tender,  healthy  and vegetarian dish, loaded with flavor, that I will definitely be making again.  I bet the pesto ricotta would also be amazing on hot pasta with roasted veggies, maybe some sliced vegan or Italian sausage…..

Ricotta “Pesto”

16 oz. Part Skim Ricotta Cheese (Vegans can sub Tofutti or mashed drained, white beans.  If you use it to make the eggplant dish, mashed cooked white potatoes would also be great.)

Juice of one lemon, plus all of its zest

½ c. walnuts

Big handful of basil

2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Vegans omit or sub with Vegan Parm cheese)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until walnuts are chopped fine and rest of ingredients are well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ricotta Pesto Topping for Veggies and Crostini

Use the recipe above, but add 2 T. plain Greek yogurt.  Stir and serve with crisp veggies and crostinis

Ricotta Pesto Eggplant “Lasagne”

Ingredients:

Recipe of Ricotta Pesto Above

2 Eggplants, peeled and sliced ¼ inch rounds

Approximately ¼ cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper

3 cups marina, your favorite brand or homemade (I whirl 28 oz can crushed tomatoes in a blender with garlic, 1/4 onion, handfull of basil, dash red wine, 1 t. oregano, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 t. salt — simmer a few minutes and call it marinara.)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (more if you like)

Directions

Heat oven to Broil.   Place eggplant slices in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.  Brush with olive oil,  season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Broil about 4 inches from heat, keeping a close eye on the eggplant.  As soon as it begins to turn golden in places, take the cookie sheet out of the oven, carefully turn over the eggplant with a flat spatula, brush with more olive oil and salt and pepper.  Broil this side, too,  until slightly golden and eggplant is pliable and soft.  Take out of oven, let cool a bit.

Change oven temp to 350 degrees for baking.

Grease a square pan or round pan with a little olive oil.  Place one layer of eggplant in pan. (Using 1/3 of the eggplant slices.) Top with ½ the ricotta mixture.   Top with 1 cup marinara sauce.  Layer again with eggplant, ricotta,  and marinara in the same portions.  Top with layer of eggplant and final cup of marinara.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese.   Bake for about 25 minutes until dish begins to bubble and Parm is golden brown.   Let sit for  10- 15 minutes before cutting in slices to serve.

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The Title: Pesto Ricotta & Eggplant”Lasagne”
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© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Italian Veggie Layered Casserole


Becky's Italian Veggie Layered Casserole

When my kids were little, I remember going bathing suit shopping with three small children in tow. (The last child, number 4, had yet to be born.)  Like most women, I’d rather pour lemon juice on a paper cut than shop for a bathing suit, especially after having incubated, grown and given birth to multiple children.  The only thing that could make this task even more painful was to try to get it done with three bored and antsy preschoolers in tow.

After what must have seemed an eternity to my eldest son, he said, “Mom, just buy one of those zucchini bathing suits and let’s get out of this Lady Store!”

Little did this child know that due to his weighing in at 9 lb 2 oz,  leaving stretch marks from my neck to the my knees, his mother’s days of wearing “zucchinis”  (bikinis) were forever behind me.

However, I am quite fond of cooking with zucchini, and this casserole below is one of my favorite ways to use up the abundance of zucchini squash that seem to overflow everyone’s backyard garden all summer long.

I created and made this casserole last week, and it seemed to get even better the next couple of days, as I enjoyed for a vegetarian lunch or a side dish with dinner.  It’s a little trouble to make, but it makes a bunch and keeps beautifully in the fridge for several days.  Just cut a slice, nuke and enjoy! (Would be a great take-to-work lunch.)   It also makes a gorgeous colorful side dish to go with a simple meat like baked chicken, fish, or hamburger patty for the omnivores in your family, while making a satisfying meal for any vegetarians among you. With a few tweaks, this can easily be made into a vegan-friendly dish as well.

Variations:

Vegan version below.

Add cooked seasoned ground hamburger, turkey, chicken, or Italian sausage for an all-in-one main dish casserole.

Using same technique experiment with a variety of veggies and cheeses.  Try using Alfredo sauce in place of marinara.

Becky's Italian Veggie Layered Casserole

 

Becky’s Layered Italian Veggie Casserole

Serves 10 to

Olive oil to coat large skillet (1 to 3 Tablespoons)

1 eggplant, peeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin

2 smallish or 1 large potato, unpeeled, sliced about ¼ inch thin

1/3 c. water

3to 4 zucchini squash, sliced ¼ inch

3 to 4 yellow squash

6 slices Swiss cheese (or mozzarella or any white cheese that melts; almond or soy cheese for vegans)

4 cups marinara sauce, your favorite brand, your favorite homemade recipe or my quick blender marina sauce below * (Try to choose or cook a marinara that is a little on the thick side.)

½ c. to 2/3 c. grated Parmesan, Asiago or other firm Italian cheese (Vegans, click on this link for a recipe for fake vegan parm)

1 ½ c. crushed buttery whole wheat crackers like Ritz or Town House brands (vegans use vegan-friendly crackers of your choice)

2 T. olive oil

2 T. butter or Earth Balance for Vegans

1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In large skillet, pour a couple of tablespoons of  olive oil around skillet then sauté eggplant slices until partially cooked,  Using tongs,  place eggplant in a layer in bottom of big rectangle 11 by 13 inch baking dish.  Next,  partially cook potato in same skillet, adding 1/3 cup water.  Then add this layer on top of the eggplant.  Salt and pepper the eggplant-potato layer to taste.  Pour two cups marinara sauce on top of potato and eggplant.

First layer of eggplant an potatoes with first layer of sauce being ladled on

Lay Swiss cheese or other white cheese on top of this layer.   Next (using same skillet),  lightly sauté zucchini and yellow squash together, adding more oil if needed. Put this layer on top of Swiss cheese. Lightly salt and pepper the squash.  Pour two more cups of marina on top of squash.

Second layer of squash and marinara

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (or vegan substitute)  Melt butter with olive oil in skillet, add crushed crackers, and stir until evenly coated.  Pour buttered crackers atop casserole. Sprinkle with 1 t. oregano or Italian seasoning.

Topped with cheese and buttered crackers, ready for oven

Bake at 350 until cheese is hot and melted and crackers are golden brown about 20 to 30 minutes.

Piping hot Italian Vegie Layered Casserole just out of oven

A slice of Italian veggie heaven...

* Becky’s Quick Blender Marinara

1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes with basil

1 small 4 oz. can tomato paste

1 c. water

1 t. salt

1 t. Italian seasoning

½ onion

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 t. brown sugar

(optional: fresh basil leaves, ¼ cup red wine)

Put all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth, or until as chunky as you like it.  Makes about 4 cups marina, perfect for this recipe.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Italian Veggie Layered Casserole
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/16/italian-vegie-layered-casserole