Monday, December 5, 2011

Italian 3 Ways - Nicole - Noodle-Free Eggplant Lasagna, Spicy Stuffed Peppers & Meaty Sauce

I don't know what was with me this weekend. I usually cook a couple of double batches twice a week and my sister does the giant cook off on Sunday. I think I was just really craving Italian... and decided to do Italian 3 ways (or make one big batch of meat sauce and use it 3 ways).

First I made a noodle free lasagna using eggplant slices instead of noodles. It was beyond yummy with the thick meaty sauce and ricotta. The recipe for the meat sauce is at the bottom of the post. Next I made stuffed peppers and last I used up the last of the meat sauce by simply combining it with whole wheat noodles for my family who eats wheat. -- Nicole

All the recipes are in a giant post below: Noodle-Free Eggplant Lasagna, Spicy Stuffed Peppers, and Meaty Spaghetti Sauce.

Noodle-Free Eggplant Lasagna

  • 2 small eggplants
  • 2 cups thick meat sauce (recipe below)
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs basil
  • pinch salt & pepper to taste
  • mozzarella cheese

Peel and cut eggplant into very thin disks. You may want to sharpen your knife first (as I did) or use a mandolin (which Sis warned me it may be too hazardous for me) so your eggplant is nice and thin.

In a small bowl mix the ricotta cheese with one egg, 1 tbs basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Line an 8" x 11” glass pan with heavy duty foil. Grease the foil if you like and spread a thin layer of meat sauce covering the bottom of the pan. Don't put too much – it is really just for removing pieces easily later.
Layer the Eggplant Slices Overlapping 
Over the sauce, layer in your eggplant slices, overlapping them so they create a strong layer.

Spread ½ of the cheese mixture next, all the way to the edges.
Spread 1/3 of the remaining meat sauce over the cheese.
& start over with eggplant, sauce, and ricotta cheese again.
Do 1 more layer of eggplant, skip the ricotta, add the rest of the sauce and top with sprinkled mozzarella cheese.

To sum that up it went: foil, oil, sauce, eggplant, ricotta, sauce, eggplant, ricotta, sauce, eggplant, sauce, mozzarella.

Bake 30 minutes if you are not going to eat it today, so when you reheat it will be cooked properly. Bake for 40 minutes (or until you see it getting bubbly hot on the edges) if you are going to have some today. I actually let mine cool, then wrapped the whole dish in foil and put it in the fridge overnight. Then in the morning I lifted the whole lasagna out using the foil and cut it into pieces while it was cold. I also ate a slice for breakfast - shhh! I sliced mine not in squares but 1/2 squares so they were not too thick for reheating - remember pods the width of a toothpaste tube is the best for reheating in the microwave. They may turn out as small servings, just reheat 2. It made 14 slices or 16 half servings. 

Spicy Stuffed Peppers
3/4 lb no casings Mild Italian Sausage

¾ cup uncooked rice
3 tbs olive oil
½ bell pepper diced (orange, red or green)
1 yellow onion chopped
½ bag baby spinach cut into small pieces. 
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tbs oregano
¼ tsp ground red pepper 
¼ tsp salt
pepper to taste
5 bell peppers

Start by cooking the rice in a rice cooker while you get everything else ready. 
Brown the sausage in a pan, scoop out and set aside. 
Cut off the tops of 5 bell peppers and carefully scoop out the insides. Rinse and then place in a big pot of water and boil for 3 minutes so the peppers get very slightly tender. 

In the pan you made your sausage in add olive oil and garlic, then add yellow onion, diced peppers, and baby spinach cut into small strips. Cook on medium for a few minutes and add oregano, red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in rice at the end and cook for another minute. This is a good time to give it a taste. You can add extra red pepper if it doesn't taste spicy enough. 

Fill up the peppers evenly and top with a spoonful of meat sauce and a slice of mozzarella (optional). Place in a baking dish with 1/4 tsp of water in the bottom of the pan (to keep things moist) and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350. Take them out early  if they are starting to get brown. Let them cool for a little bit. Serve whole right away. For Mealpods, I let them cool for 10 minutes, then cut them in half length-wise and wrapped them up in foil. Makes 10  Mealpods if you cut them in half. 

Meaty Sauce for use with the other recipes

3 Cans/Bottles Sugar-free pasta tomato sauce
3 cans Tomato Paste
1 tbs garlic powder (I like my garlic - you may want less)
1 tbs basil
1 tbs oregano
1 1/2 lbs Italian Sausage Mild (Spicy if you like it that way)
2lbs Ground Beef

& Yes, Big post/Big cook-off means
but no more cooking this week! 
Brown your ground beef and sausage, drain and add to a very large pot with everything else. Mix, and let simmer for as long as you can stand it. :-) Keep tasting it to get the spices just right to your taste. You can also add salt and pepper if you like.  

If you have leftover meat sauce, as I did, just boil up some noodles and make some Mealpods with the extra sauce. Or bag it up and freeze as is. You might also want to keep a cup extra in the fridge for the week to have with your lasagna and peppers. 


  1. Your kitchen doesn't even look that messy! :p

  2. Yes it does! Maybe I should have zoomed in! - Nicole