This dish highlights contrasting methods of using eggplant. The charred puree adds smokiness, the Italian eggplants are sweeter and more gentle, while the pea eggplants provide a compelling, bitter pop. Tomato and mozzarella are natural summer partners for eggplant and provide a soft creaminess and a hint of acidity.
- 2 medium eggplants, about 280 g each
- 8 x 2 cm round slices light purple Italian eggplant (8–10 cm in diameter)
- ¾ cup picked pea eggplants (or roughly chopped apple eggplant, see Note)
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1½ cups tomato, roughly diced
- 30 g butter
- splash of balsamic vinegar
- 12 x 10 cm rounds cut from fresh lasagne sheets (see Note)
- 2 x 100 g buffalo mozzarella balls
- 80 g finely grated parmesan
- olive oil, for drizzling
- river salt and black and white pepper, to season
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time at least 2 hours
To make the eggplant puree, char the whole fruit directly over a flame. Turn it often, trying not to break the skin too much, until it is blackened and soft, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a colander to allow them to release a little of their juices. Set aside for about 20 minutes.
Cut the tops off and place the whole eggplants and a little salt into a blender and mix until smooth. You will now have a black, slightly bitter eggplant puree. Set aside.
Sprinkle eggplant slices with a little salt and set aside for about 20 minutes. Pat dry and brush with a little oil before placing in a medium-hot frying pan. They will need to be in a single layer so you may need to do this step in batches. Turn the slices a few times and, after the first minute, add an extra splash of oil to the pan. Cook until soft with an even colour. Set aside on paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
Heat a small saucepan on medium and add a splash of oil. Add pea eggplants and a little white pepper. Fry for a few minutes and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic starts to colour and then add the tomato. Reduce heat to low, add the butter and vinegar and cook for another few minutes, until eggplants are starting to soften. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Blanch pasta in salted boiling water for 2–3 minutes each and refresh in iced water. Pasta should be softened but still a little al dente. Once cool, quickly place pasta rounds on new Chux wipes to absorb some of the water.
Now you have all the elements ready it’s time to construct. Place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and rub the paper with a little oil. Place 4 of the pasta rounds directly onto the paper leaving space between each. Place a dollop of smoky puree in the centre of each round, using up half of the total amount. Spread it out a little but not quite to the very edge.
Top with some of the tomato mix, not quite to the edge. Sprinkle with some parmesan and top with an eggplant slice. Top with a piece of mozzarella, torn with your hands to divide between each round. Sprinkle with a little black pepper.
Top with another layer of pasta, and repeat stacking procedure. Use up the remaining ingredients, keeping a little of the parmesan aside to sprinkle over the top. Just before the final sprinkling of parmesan, give each stack a gentle press to compact all the ingredients.
Carefully place your tray in the fridge to sit for a few hours. You could even do the cooking and construction the day before and let them sit in the fridge, covered, overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. When you are ready, place the baking tray into the oven and cook the lasagnes for 12–15 minutes, until starting to brown on top, centres are warm, and the mozzarella is starting to soften and ooze.
Use a spatula to gently lift each lasagne onto an individual plate and then drizzle with a little oil to serve.
• There are several different elements to this dish. None of them are actually hard, but construction can be fiddly. If you can’t be bothered with that, make it in a baking dish with large sheets instead of building individual portions.
• If you can’t find pea eggplants, use apple eggplant roughly cut into 2 cm pieces.
• You will need to cut out the pasta rounds from fresh lasagne sheets using a 10 cm cutter or plate as a guide.
• With something this specific, you will have wastage; cook up any remaining bits of eggplant with chilli and some more tomato and serve it the next day with the pasta sheet scraps roughly torn and thrown through.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Deborah Kaloper. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
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This recipe is part of The Seasonal Cook: Eggplant column.
View previous The Seasonal Cook columns and recipes.