Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Aubergine and pesto lasagne

We made an aubergine lasagne last new year's eve, which I vaguely remembered to have been fairly good. Lots of champagne (and the intervening couple of months of course) meant I couldn't remember precisely, so I thought it'd be good to have some proper scientific testing and try it again. While I was shopping for the ingredients I spotted a really luxuriant pot of fresh basil, and had a brainwave: aubergine lasagne with pesto! I can call it a brainwave now that it is currently sitting in my belly and my brain is unfogged by champagne, and I can tell you without vagueness that it tastes excellent!

The only bothersome part of this recipe is the initial cooking of the aubergine. It tastes best when it is very finely sliced, which means that you spend an hour frying a hundred fine rounds of aubergine, but it is worth it in the end, really. You could probably make this lasagne with bottled pesto, but if at all possible make your own - it's really 5 minutes' work and the results are much better.

olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
500 ml tomato passata (or use chopped tomatoes here too)
150 ml red wine
3-4 large aubergines
400 g fresh lasagne sheets (check they don't need pre-cooking)
300 g mozzarella cheese, grated
1 quantity of home made pesto
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil, then add the chopped onion and stir over medium heat until softening. Add the garlic and saute another couple of minutes, then tip in the crushed tomatoes, passata and red wine. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

While the sauce is simmering, slice each of the aubergines lengthwise into slices about 2 or 3 mm thick. Layer these slices on the draining board or in a colander, salting between layers, then weight them down and leave them to drain for 20 minutes. Rinse the slices well under cold water and pat dry. Heat a little olive oil in a frypan and cook the slices, a few at a time, for a couple of minutes on each side until they are soft. Set aside on kitchen paper.

To construct the lasagne, spread a couple of spoonfuls of the tomato sauce across the bottom of a lasagne dish, then cover this with a layer of pasta sheets. Cover these with more tomato sauce and a layer of aubergine slices. For the next layer, spread pesto on the lasagne sheets, then add a layer of aubergine. Keep repeating this until all the ingredients are used. Finish with a layer of pasta, well covered with tomato sauce, and sprinkled with grated mozzarella.

Bake at 180C for about half an hour, until the top is golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving (although, like almost all lasagnes, this is even better the next day).

Serves 6-8.

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2 March 2004

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