February 10, 2009

Eggplant & Prosciutto Lasagna {Naptime Everyday}

About nine years ago I met a really great guy. He was smart, sweet, handsome and funny, and I couldn’t stop gushing about him to all my family and friends. Our initial courtship activities included the usual trips to museums, walks in the park, coffee houses on Sunday morning, and restaurant reservations. Lots of reservations. I didn’t see the need to cook for him since Jean-George and Mr. Meyer were doing a bang-up job for us. I figured, if all went according to plan, we would probably just eat out for the rest of our natural lives. At the time it didn’t seem important that I impress him with my own, somewhat limited, culinary skills. However, I shared this strategy with my mother one night and she became very concerned, pointing out that I would indeed have to start cooking for him at some point. I didn’t quite understand what she was getting at, encouraging me to start feeding him, so the time came for her to teach me a very important life lesson. It is the lesson known as “The Way to a Man’s Heart is Through His Stomach.” It is a lesson I hold very dear to this day because, boy, she was right. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my parents have been happily married for over 35 years.


Armed with this valuable knowledge, it was clearly time for me to stop making reservations and start cooking. So, I began my newest adventure, learning how to cook. Really cook. Not the kind where I would add hot water to noodles, throw in some extra veggies and call it innovative. Mom started clipping and sending me recipes for simple but flavorful dishes like Roasted Lemon Chicken, Green Beans with Slivered Almonds, Vegetable Ratatouille, and Prosciutto wrapped Pork Tenderloin. These were all the right things to teach a budding cook how to build a “no-fail” recipe repertoire whilst romancing a man who loved to eat. Once I started this cooking quest our relationship went from “dating” to “serious couple” practically overnight. I was lucky that this man was a willing taste-tester. He always applauded my efforts and supported the idea of letting me try whatever recipe I had received in the mail that week. In the end I think that romancing his stomach was definitely the right strategy, to this day he is my biggest fan.


This lasagna was one of our all-time favorites right from the start. It also was a milestone of sorts for me because it was my first recipe adaptation. I received a recipe for lasagna with roasted mushrooms and pancetta. But I don’t really like mushrooms and I purchased prosciutto by accident. Thus, I made some substitutions and came up with a recipe for roasted eggplant and prosciutto lasagna. It was a little scary at first, substituting ingredients, but it also felt kind of rebellious and exciting. I made the dish with great care and served it to him with a little bit of trepidation. However, I needn’t have worried, the result was a wonderful, deeply flavored lasagna that left us full and happy. To this day, every time I make it we remark that the eggplant and prosciutto give the dish an excellent balance of salty and sweet. Plus, the herb and shallots mixture, which really give it that deep warm flavor, are all covered in a decadent, silky bechamel sauce. Everyone likes a good bechamel sauce. So, after all the restaurant reservations and cooking experiments, the rest is history. Following several more successes in the kitchen, including a particularly decadent chocolate souffle, we got married and had a baby. I guess, in the end, some couples will always have Paris, and we’ll always have a great lasagna.

Recipe

Naptime Courtship Eggplant and Prosciutto Lasagna – inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit a while back

Ingredients

  • 1 lb
  • Lasagna noodles (Use the “No Boil” to save yourself valuable time)
    large eggplants, cubed
    2 T. olive oil
    2 T. Kosher salt
    1 ½ c. prosciutto, chopped
  • 2
  • large shallots
    1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
    4 c. whole milk
    1 ½ c. chicken broth
    stick unsalted butter
    2/3 c. all-purpose unbleached flour
    2 c. Gruyere, shredded
    ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino-Romano once in a pinch and that tasted fine, too)

    Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

    Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut eggplants in 1 ½″ cubes and toss them with oil and salt until evenly coated. Spread eggplant in one even layer on baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until eggplant is evening brown and soft.
    2. In a medium saute pan add 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add prosciutto and saute until browned, about 3 minutes. Add shallots and rosemary, saute until shallots are tender. About 4 minutes. Remove from heat and save.
    3. Make the Bechamel Sauce: Bring milk and broth to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 3 minutes and then remove from heat.
    4. Melt butter in a heavy medium sauce pan over low heat. Whisk in flour, stir carefully to make sure there are no lumps. Stir for 2 minutes to thicken. Whisk in hot milk mixture and take care to make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will thicken and reduce. After 5 minutes remove the sauce from the heat. Quickly add the grated Gruyere, Parmesan and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
    5. I am a big fan of “No Boil” lasagna noodles – they save a lot of table. So, no matter what you are using, add some sauce to the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch pan. Spread sauce evenly so it coats the whole bottom. Add one layer of noodles. Add more sauce. Then put a layer of roasted eggplant and top that with the prosciutto mixture. Follow with a second layer of noodles. Repeat the sauce, eggplant, prosciutto layering pattern. Finally, top with a last layer of noodles and top with the remaining sauce.
    6. Finally, at the end, sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan cheese.
    7. Preheat oven to 350 and bake until the top of the lasagna is golden and the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes. It may need to bake for up to an hour if it was refrigerated. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

    Naptime Notes

    Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

    Lasagna’s can be a Mom’s best friend because the portion is often large enough so you can eat it for 2 days. The great news about this dish is that the flavors marry after 24 hours so the flavor is actually even better the second day.

    Naptime Stopwatch

    This recipe takes the entire naptime to make, about 1 ½ hours. However, if you can stretch the dish over two days then technically you saved yourself a full naptime to watch TV. I promise this is well worth the time it takes to make, the longest part is roasting the eggplants and composing the bechamel sauce.

    Naptime Reviews


    Needless to say my husband loves this. However, our toddler gives it mixed reviews. She likes the noodles and bechamel sauce, but isn’t too keen on the eggplant and prosciutto. Oh well.

    • Anonymous

      Can you post your butternut squash soup? Saw clip on the news and it referred me to your site for the recipe.

    • Anonymous

      Can you post your butternut squash soup? Saw clip on the news and it referred me to your site for the recipe.

    • Kelsey B.

      Hi! Thanks! I just published the recipe, you should be all set! :)

    • Kelsey B.

      Hi! Thanks! I just published the recipe, you should be all set! :)

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