I’ve been making this lasagna for over 30 years. It’s called 12 layer lasagna but you can make as many layers as you would like. The pasta for the layers is homemade, very thin, pasta sheets. A dozen super-thin sheets of fresh pasta brushed with delicious tomato sauce all layered with melted fresh mozzarella cheese and toasted eggplant slices.
This recipe is not hard but does require some focus and dedication to detail to really come out great. You can choose to make this with meat or vegetarian. I will present the vegetarian version.
Jughandle's 12 layer Egg Plant Lasagna
- 4 whole Eggplants large
- 1 pound fresh pasta sheets or make some from scratch
- 1 Tbsp butter to prep baking dish
- 3 tablespoons olive oil for the ice water dip
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes dry crushed
- 2 clove garlic pressed
- 28 ounce crushed organic tomatoes Canned is actually best than fresh in this dish
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest the zest of 1 or 2 lemons
- 12 ounce mozzarella fresh balls torn up into little pieces
- 1 bunch basil fresh julienned
- 1 Tbsp Oregano fresh chopped or 1 tsp dry
- 8 oz Parmesan cheese grated
- 10 oz Ricotta cheese
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1/4 Cup Red wine vinegar
- Fill large pot 3/4 full of water, throw in a hand full of salt and bring to a boil.
- Butter a deep, square baking dish, or spray with Pam or the like.
TO MAKE YOUR TOMATO SAUCE
- Place the olive oil, salt, pepper flakes, diced onion and garlic in a pan.
- Dial the heat up to high and saute for a minute or two.
- Add the tomatoes and slowly bring to a simmer.
- Add the oregano
- Taste then add a dash of Worcestershire sauce,Tabasco sauce and a splash of red wine vinegar.
- simmer for 20 minutes
- Remove from heat, stir in the lemon zest and taste again.
- If the sauce tastes flat and bland hit it again with the same amount of the Worcestershire sauce,Tabasco sauce and red wine vinegar. tasting in between stirring in between each addition until you like it.
- Set aside.
PREP THE EGGPLANT
- Clean the eggplant and blanche in the boiling water for about 30 seconds to soften the skin
- Remove to an ice bath to cool
- Slice the eggplant as thinly as you can. I use a mandolin.
- Put the slices into water or milk with the juice of 1 lemon to keep from browning and to remove bitterness.
- reserve for the assembly
PREPARE THE LASAGNA NOODLES
- Make the pasta using a pasta machine, or use the store bought fresh pasta sheets.
- Cut the big sheets into 12 inch long strips.
- This should yield about 12-14, foot long strips.
- I go to setting 7 or 8 on the Pasta Queen machine, one shy of the very thinnest setting. You can re-roll the store bought pasta too, if it is too thick.
- The sheets should almost be translucent.
AS YOU ASSEMBLE THE DISH
- Prepare a large bowl with ice water and the a skim coat of olive oil
- Blanche each pasta sheet in the salted boiling water for just 10-20 seconds. It will cook completely in the assembled dish.
- Do each sheet individually
- Transfer them immediately to the cold olive-oil water for a quick swim and cool-off.
- No need to dry the pasta you will want the extra liquid.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA
- When you start to assemble preheat your oven to 375 F.
- Ladle a bit of the sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish before you start assembling the pasta layers
- Begin to line the greased baking dish with the pasta sheets.
- It is ok for them to overlap.
- The first layer should go up the sides and hang over about an inch all around.
- Ladle another thin layer of tomato sauce on the first layer and then every third layer.
- Spread the Ricotta on the layers above the tomato sauce and add the mozzarella cheese randomly. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the cheese layers evenly.
- On every third layer spread evenly a layer of the eggplant topped with a bit of the julienned basil.
- So you will have a pasta layer followed by a sauce layer followed by a cheese layer, followed by an eggplant layer.
- Repeat boiling, cool dipping and layering your pasta, spreading, cheesing and eggplanting until all your ingredients are gone.
- The top layer will be a combination of the sauce, cheese and basil, to form a crusty top.
- Bake in the preheated oven on the middle shelf until everything is melted and fragrant, 45 minutes or so.
- It is smart to put a pan under the dish as it cooks to catch any boil over.
- If the top is not crusty turn the oven to high broil and finish browning the top.
- Let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes or more before serving, so everything has a chance to set up a bit.
- FREEZE FOR LATER
- All of this can be done way ahead.
- You can allow the dish to cool and freeze it for another time. Just put the frozen dish in a 300 deg oven for about an hour or so and serve.