Spaghetti no. Eggplant yes. But neither by Marco Polo. I give credit where credit it due, and the Chinese don’t get credit for spaghetti. I’ll give them kudos for the eggplant, however, which has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory. That’s a long time. The first written record of the plant from 544 is in Chinese. Its various names suggest that it was probably introduced throughout the Mediterranean by the Arabs in the early Middle Ages.
I like the name in Spanish – berenjena, and French – aubergine, and Portuguese – beringela. The English (American) name derives from European cultivars that were yellow or white and resembled goose eggs (i.e., eggplant). But I particularly, and not surprisingly, like the word in Italian, melanzana (especially when following the words Parmigiana di.)
Many recipes advise “de-gorging” (or salting, rinsing and draining) eggplant prior to cooking, mainly to remove the bitterness, but also to reduce the amount of oil absorbed.
So thank the Chinese and the Arabs (and the Italians) for this one. Or just take all the credit yourself. Delicious.
Check out our wine pairings to complement this recipe.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the eggplant into 1/4" rounds. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Place another baking tray on top, and place a heavy pot or book on top to add weight. After 30 minutes, rinse the eggplant. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes until golden.
Chop onion and saute in olive oil until golden brown. Puree the tomatoes and add to onions, with salt and pepper. Cook on low heat, uncovered for about 30 minutes until reduced.
In a large bowl, mix eggs into ricotta, add the mozzarella, the Parmigiano and the salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna for half of the suggested package cooking time (about 4 or 5 minutes), drain and set aside. (Drizzle with oil to prevent sticking.)
Coat the bottom of a bake-proof pan (9 x 11 or other similar size at least 3" deep) with a sauce.
A layer of lasagna (slightly overlapping), a layer of the ricotta mixture, about 1/3 of the eggplant; a few spoons of sauce. Repeat layers until you reach the the top of the pan. (Depending on the depth and size of the pan, you may have left over lasagna, or you can make more layers with slightly less filling between layers.) If quantity allows, cover top with a layer of lasagna, and some sauce and a generous sprinkle of Parmigiano.
Cover with aluminum foil and cook at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 10-15 more minutes until top is browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.