No Noodle Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna
There’s one thing you can do to make your life easier every single day: meal prep. I’m not talking about an extensive, all day event where you package everything in special containers. You can keep it simple by prepping big batches of food when you do feel like cooking then serving it again for lunches or dinners later in the week. You can also freeze so many recipes and pull them out whenever you need them. I love creating recipes that are perfect for meal prep and leftovers and this No Noodle Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna is no exception. It’s so perfect to snack on for days after you make it. Plus, it’s gluten-free, vegetarian and really high in fiber!
I’m kind of obsessed with lasagna – I have some awesome lasagna rolls up on the blog – but this No Noodle Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna is interesting because of the quinoa and eggplant. The flavors blend so well together and it has a really nice texture. I love the idea of quinoa in a lasagna dish because it adds some heartiness and complexity. A high protein grain, quinoa makes this dish quite filling as well. You can also make quinoa for breakfast, if you want to get really creative.
Other highlights? Tons of veggies! Spinach and red sauce are both featured but eggplant takes center stage in this dish. I actually don’t like eggplant. I’m sorry to say it but sometimes it’s slimy and it’s got a chewy texture. In this lasagna dish, thin slices of eggplant replace the noodles. You pre-bake them so they’re not slimy at all; they’re actually very firm and make wonderful layers in the dish. It’s not very “eggplanty” so if you don’t love that veggie, either, then I still encourage you to try it. You may find, like me, that you’re an eggplant covert in certain conditions.
Whenever I use marinara sauce it reminds me of my friends over at tomato wellness because they’re obsessed with all things cooked tomato because of the versatility and health benefits. Marinara sauce is particularly high in lycopene – an antioxidant that has unique anti-cancer effects, especially for prostate cancer. It also contains vitamins A, E, K and b-vitamins, and minerals like potassium and copper. Eggplants have some unique antioxidants, too. Whenever you see that blue/purple color you know that you’re getting the antioxidant anthocyanins.
Making No Noodle Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna
Making this recipe is all about multi-tasking. When you bake the eggplant, make the quinoa at the same time. Chop the spinach and mix the ricotta and crack the eggs while those are cooking. Set everything out and you’re ready to assemble. If you took this one piece by piece, it would be a long and complicated recipe but if you look at it as a series of simple steps, it’s not a problem.
- Preheat the oven and slice the eggplant to get it baking. Try to slice the eggplant thinly and evenly. It’s challenging since they’re a bit curved. What I generally do is reserve the very small rounds from the ends in case I need to fill in any gaps when I’m layering. I definitely bake them, too for the most part. Lay all the slices on a baking sheet and brush them lightly with oil then flip them, brush them again and do a really light sprinkle of salt and pepper. I have an actual little kitchen brush that I dip in olive oil. You don’t want to saturate them but just do it very lightly.
- The eggplant bake for 20 minutes and the quinoa cooks for 15 so get it going right away. I rinse it quickly and the reason for that is that you’ll notice this milky water coming off the quinoa when you’re rinsing it. That’s a compound that’s a bit bitter. Some people don’t rinse their quinoa but I almost always do and if you or your family are sensitive to bitter taste at all, you should honor this step. After that, you simply combine the quinoa with water in a pot, bring it to a boil then cook it on a low heat, covered, until its fluffy.
- While the quinoa and eggplant are both cooking, use the time to prep three things: spinach, egg and ricotta mixture. Chop the spinach really roughly and set it aside. No need to make it very small as the hot quinoa will make it wilted anyhow. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, whisk them up and add the herbs and set that aside. Mix the mozzarella and Parmesan into the ricotta in a medium bowl and set that aside. I open up my jar of marinara and then I have my stations set for assembling my No Noodle Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna. If you want to make your own red sauce, that’s totally fine and you likely have time to do it but I really like to keep things simple. There are some wonderful red sauces available at stores. Choose one without added sugar and that has minimal ingredients. Simple is best.
- Finally, when the quinoa and eggplant are done, take them off the heat. Add your spinach to the quinoa and set it aside so that the spinach wilts a bit and the mixture cools. You don’t want your scrambled egg to cook so I say about 10 minutes and few stirs is enough to cool the quinoa/spinach mixture. After that period of time, add the egg and mix it all together. It will be a nicely coated, combined mixture.
- Pour some of your red sauce (about 1/3 cup) and spread it on the bottom of the pan. Put down a layer of eggplant. I use 6 large pieces and fill in the gaps with any smaller ones. Then I layer the quinoa mixture evenly on top. I dollop ricotta mixture in 6 places and spread it slightly to the best I can with a spatula. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Then add another 1/3 cup of red sauce and another layer of eggplant followed by another layer of quinoa and more dollops of ricotta to use both mixtures up. Finally, add a final layer of eggplant then top with the remaining red sauce and cheese and bake. You’re ready to go!
I hope you get to try this awesome No Noodle Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna with Quinoa and Spinach recipe-
- 2 medium-sized eggplants
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 14 ounce jar marinara sauce
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 teaspoon crushed red peppers
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Slice off top and bottom bits of eggplant and cut into 1/4-rounds. Arrange on baking sheet then brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper then roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Bring quinoa and 1 3/4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add spinach. Blend together and let rest for an additional 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and add oregano, basil and parsley in a separate bowl. Add egg mixture to quinoa spinach mixture and blend well. In another bowl, blend 1/2 the mozzarella and 1/2 the Parmesan into the ricotta and set aside.
- In a 13x9 glass baking pan, spread 1 cup of marinara sauce evenly on the bottom. Layer half the eggplant slices in the bottom of the pan (about 6 large pieces). Spread quinoa mixture evenly on top. Dollop ricotta mixture on top of the quinoa mixture so it is spaced evenly around the casserole. Add another layer of eggplant on top then add about 1 cup of red sauce and then cover with another layer of quinoa/spinach to use it all up and then another dollop of ricotta mixture to use it all up. Cover with remaining marinara sauce then remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Serve hot. Also makes great leftovers.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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