I wanted to, but I was a super picky eater as a kid (still am), and I had texture issues...and chunky vegetable issues, and cottage cheese was for old ladies on diets, and I had no idea why anyone would waste all that bubbly cheese on anything but nachos. Garfield was my very favorite comic at the time, and he always made me want to love lasagna as much as he did. Then one day, my mom actually made it, and I was so excited!
The first time my mom made lasagna, it was one of those Chef Boyardee Lasagna kits. I basically lived on Chef Boyardee everything, so hey, why not try his lasagna? Garfield and I were going to share the same kind of bond that Cookie Monster and I had developed from the first time I shoved a cookie in my mouth. I couldn't wait! I took the first big bite of my Chef Boyardee Lasagna...and then spit it right back out. By the way, Chef Boyardee doesn't make this box kit anymore
|Pic from socialgrocery.com|
So I kept my vow to never eat lasagna again That is until I spent the night with a friend a few years later and when we sat down to the wonderful smelling dinner that her mom had made, I was horrified to see that it was lasagna. I was not about to be rude, but I really really did not want to eat lasagna. The rest of the family dug in with fervor and a square of it landed on my plate. But it looked nothing like the one my mom made via Chef Boyardee. It looked more akin to what Garfield was always obsessing over. It had white stuff and mushrooms between the layers. And real cheese nicely toasted on top, which strung from cooking dish to plate, not just grainy bits of not-real parmesan "cheese." I tried a small bite, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat it. The new flavors and random textures were too much for me. I realized that the white stuff between the layers was cottage cheese and there were onions! Heaven forbid I eat anything with onions!
I think back on that lasagna now and I would love to try it as an adult. The only thing about it that I wouldn't like now-a-days would be the cottage cheese. I myself like to use ricotta, but everyone has their preferences to which "white stuff" filling they like in their lasagna. But I digress. I make a mean lasagna now with spices and mushrooms and hamburger and lots of different kinds of cheeses. For some reason though, I never really thought about experimenting too much with this dish. Basically, as long as it was made with noodles, burger, sauce, ricotta and a lot of cheese, I call it lasagna and I just didn't stray out into the creative unknown. I know, weird, right? And then...I got a complementary box of goodies from Red Gold.
*I want to say that even though I was given free goods from Red Gold, I was not asked by them to give a favorable review - but I decided to share their lasagna recipe ideas because I tried one this past week and I loved it!
The kit they sent to me was a basic kit to make an All-In-One Lasagna. The idea is that you start with 2 types of Red Gold products, noodles, and some cheeses, then add all kinds of other ingredients of your choosing to create a quick and easy family dinner.
Here is a pic of the kit that they sent me, complete with a perfectly shaped spatula for easy lasagna cutting and serving. Yay!
2 cans of Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, & Oregano, 1 large can of Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes, and a box of Creamette Lasagna Noodles - all you need to supply for a basic, non-meat lasagna is mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Layer it all together and bake it in the oven. Simple, cheap, and easy, right? Right. But if I just made some boring ol' lasagna, I wouldn't be writing this post ;)
So, also included in my kit from Red Gold, was a sheet of "Simple Gourmet Lasagnas" with full-color pics and detailed recipes for 4 amazing dishes. Including a basic All-In-One Lasagna, a Chicken Parmesan Lasagna, Fresh Harvest Lasagna, and the one I decided to try - Eggplant Florentine Lasagna.
I made the Eggplant Florentine Lasagna exactly as instructed, as I do every recipe that I try the first time. Then I theorize about what I would do differently, and then the next time I make it, I begin altering things to my liking. I'm going to give you their recipe as I made it, then I'm going to offer some suggestions about changes that I will implement next time.
5 Tbls. of extra virgin olive oil
1 Large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 egg, beaten
1-1/2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of water
1 (28 oz) can of Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes
2 (14.5 oz) cans of Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
1 (16 oz) box lasagna noodles, traditional, uncooked
1 (6 oz) package of fresh baby spinach, washed and patted dry
1 (15 oz) carton of low fat ricotta cheese
3 cups (16 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet cover the bottom with 4 Tbls oil; heat over medium heat. Place egg in 1 bowl and breadcrumbs in another bowl. Dip eggplant slices in egg and then breadcrumbs. Fry on both sides until browned, place on paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
In a large mixing bowl combine water, Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes, Red Gold Dice Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano, Italian seasoning.
Cover the bottom of a 9x12x2 inch baking pan with 1-1/2 cups of sauce mixture. Arrange 1/3 of the noodles on top of the sauce, slightly overlapped. Top with 1/2 of the eggplant, 1/2 spinach, 1/2 ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1 cup of sauce. Repeat layers and top with the last 1/3 of noodles and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours; until noodles are cooked. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
This recipe makes 12 servings, but you could divide the recipe into two 9x9 inch baking dishes and freeze one for a wintry night supper.
Ok, my review...
- First off, I love me some fried eggplant, but I believe it was completely unnecessary for this recipe. After baking in between the layers for over an hour, the eggplant had no crunch/crispness to it, so I'm not sure what the point of frying it was. It really just tasted like soggy breadcrumbs and made for a weird texture. Now, that weird texture disappeared when I reheated it the next day for leftovers. Not to mention, that putting a fried product only added unnecessary fat calories and made the dish feel heavy...in a bad way. My Tweak: Just put the seasoned raw eggplant slices directly in the dish without dipping, breading, or frying. Will this work? I don't know I haven't tried it yet, but in theory, this should make for a lighter flavor and healthier lasagna. If it doesn't after I try it, I will be sure to let you know. Or if you give it a go before I do, be sure and let me know how it turns out, ok?
- There wasn't near enough cheese for my taste,
speaking of a "healthier lasagna."My Tweak: I would use lots more mozzarella. In a separate bowl, I would mix about 1-1/2 cups of it in with the ricotta and add a couple of teaspoons of Italian seasoning along with one egg. Mix that all up really good and put that in between the layers, when the recipe tells you to put the cheese in. Add more (another 1-1/2 cups or so) mozzarella to fill in the gaps and on the top layer.
- I also like a little cheddar or cheddar-jack cheese in mine. It's a personal flavor thing. I know that's not authentic Italian, but I like the gentle kick it adds. Mind you, I'm not saying to add a lot, just a sprinkle between layers and then a little on top with the rest of the cheeses.
All-in-all, I loved the flavorful blends of this Eggplant Florentine Lasagna recipe! The way the eggplant and spinach complimented each other was fantastic, and the basil, garlic & oregano tomatoes really made for a great sauce. I'm looking forward to trying the "Fresh Harvest Lasagna" once my local Farmer's Market gets under way this season.
For this and other Gourmet Lasagna recipe ideas, visit Red Gold's page. But above all else, experiment with ingredients that you like. Get creative and have fun!