Photo by: Wes Hodgson

Simple, Delicious Family Cooking: Eggplant and Prosciutto Lasagna & Dessert

Photo by: Wes Hodgson

I love cooking for my family, but even I find it difficult at times. There are days when I am dead tired, or bored with my menu and desperately need inspiration. I know I am not alone in feeling this, I’ve heard other mothers cry uncle, asking for new recipes to reinvigorate their repertoire.

At times like these I retrieve my go-to recipe binder and look up some of my old, most-favorite meals. These are the dishes that I know I can make during the day while my daughter naps, or during any downtime I have. They are also always guaranteed to be delicious, my family never turns them down. With fall fast approaching in the northeast I find myself thinking of cooking heartier, hot casseroles that warm both the heart and stomach. To this end I’ve been making rich lasagnas, green salads and thick crusty bread.

My favorite part about lasagna is that it is easy to make ahead of time, and can often serve an entire family for at least two meals. Since I try to cook seasonally to the best of my abilities, I often use fresh vegetables from the farmers’ market in my lasagnas. This adds an element of freshness and health to a delicious meal.

Naptime’s Eggplant and Prosciutto Lasagna
1 lb Lasagna noodles (Use the “No Boil” to save yourself valuable time)
3 large eggplants, cubed
2 T. olive oil
2 T. Kosher salt
1 1/2 c. prosciutto, chopped
2 large shallots
1 t. chopped fresh rosemary
4 c. whole milk
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 c. all-purpose unbleached flour
2 c. Gruyere, shredded
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino-Romano once in a pinch and that tasted fine, too)
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut eggplants in 1 1/2" cubes and toss them with oil and salt until evenly coated. Spread eggplant in one even layer on baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until eggplant is evening brown and soft.

2. In a medium saute pan add 1 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add prosciutto and saute until browned, about 3 minutes. Add shallots and rosemary, saute until shallots are tender. About 4 minutes. Remove from heat and save.

3. Make the Bechamel Sauce: Bring milk and broth to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 3 minutes and then remove from heat.

4. Melt butter in a heavy medium sauce pan over low heat. Whisk in flour, stir carefully to make sure there are no lumps. Stir for 2 minutes to thicken. Whisk in hot milk mixture and take care to make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will thicken and reduce. After 5 minutes remove the sauce from the heat. Quickly add the grated Gruyere, Parmesan and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

5. I am a big fan of “No Boil” lasagna noodles – they save a lot of table. So, no matter what you are using, add some sauce to the bottom of a 13×9×2 inch pan. Spread sauce evenly so it coats the whole bottom. Add one layer of noodles. Add more sauce. Then put a layer of roasted eggplant and top that with the prosciutto mixture. Follow with a second layer of noodles. Repeat the sauce, eggplant, prosciutto layering pattern. Finally, top with a last layer of noodles and top with the remaining sauce.

6. Finally, at the end, sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan cheese.

7. Preheat oven to 350 and bake until the top of the lasagna is golden and the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes.

It may need to bake for up to an hour if it was refrigerated. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. I am mindful of the amount of sugar my daughter eats during the day, so for dessert I like to serve her a big slice of my Zucchini-Applesauce bread.

I keep it low-fat by cutting the oil in half and substituting applesauce, which also gives it additional flavor. The best part about this meal is that I am able to make both the lasagna and bread during the day, leaving me hands free in the evening. When dinner time arrives I merely re-heat the lasagna and voila, a delicious dinner is served that the whole family loves!

Naptime Chef Favorite Zucchini Bread
2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 t. baking powder
1 t. coarse salt
3 1/2 t. cinnamon
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. plain applesauce (not low-fat)
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 c. freshly grated zucchini
2 t. pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 (two) 9 × 5 inch loaf pans.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl stir together eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Make sure it is fully combined.
4. Carefully pour flour mixture into egg mixture, stirring until completely combined.
5. Pour entire mixture into loaf pans, making sure there is an even amount of batter in each.
6. For Zucchini Bread bake for 45 minutes.
7. You will know when the bread is done when the center is set and spring back when lightly touched.

Kelsey Banfield founded The Naptime Chef, a website dedicated to home cooks who like to enjoy good food, after she discovered the only good time to cook or bake was while her infant daughter slept. Her writing has appeared on CookieMagazine.com, Good Bite.com, as well as numerous other online and print publications. She lives in NYC with her husband and daughter.

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