This recipe was a very pleasant surprise to my taste buds this week. In an effort to diversify my fruit and vegetable eating (which is what plant-based doctors and nutritionists recommend), I like to purchase an occasional eggplant and make it the main ingredient of a recipe. Before going mostly plant-based in my eating, I can honestly say, I never used it in a meal as a main ingredient.
Since cooking with eggplant, I have discovered that there is something about its taste that is perfectly complimented by spaghetti sauce. So, after purchasing one this week, I had it in my mind that I wanted to make a lasagna-like casserole out of it.
What resulted was amazing, if I do say so myself.
Eggplants are a great source of antioxidants that have the ability to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and fight cancer-causing free radicals. They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, and folate—all of which are great immune system boosters. And if you choose to leave the skin on when you cook with it, you would be getting Nasunin, which is another cancer-fighting antioxidant found only in eggplants (source).
I’ll leave you now with the recipe, while I go and reheat my yummy leftovers!
Baked Eggplant Spaghetti
• 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into quarter-inch circles
• 1 jar of organic spaghetti sauce (I used Trader Joe’s 25-ounce Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1-2 tablespoons of low-sodium vegetable broth for sautéing
• 4 cloves of garlic
• 2 teaspoons of dried basil
• 12 ounces of meatless ground “beef” (I used Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef (pic below))
• 1-3 teaspoons of dried Italian seasoning blend
• 2 teaspoons + 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast (or a 1:2 blend of nutritional yeast and ground nuts), separated
• cooked whole-wheat or gluten-free pasta, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8 x 11 glass casserole dish with Pam-like oil, and set aside. In a separate pan on the stove, cook onion for about 5 minutes in vegetable broth. Add the garlic and basil to the onions and cook another couple of minutes, adding more broth, if necessary, to the pan to prevent sticking. Add meat substitute of your choice to the pan, break it up, and cook it until heated through. Remove from heat.
Put a third of the jar of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish. Place half of the sliced eggplant on top of the sauce (the slices may over lap). Sprinkle the desired amount of dried Italian seasoning on the eggplant (I used about a teaspoon). Place half of the “meat” blend on top of that and sprinkle the “meat” with about a teaspoon of nutritional yeast.
Repeat this process one more time. Finally add the rest of the spaghetti sauce on top of the second layer, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast or nutritional yeast and nut blend on top. Cover with foil and place in oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook uncovered for 15 more minutes.
Take out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving it on top of some pasta or on a plate by itself.
Now, when I make this again, I am going to add fresh mushrooms to the layers. You could also fit in some fresh spinach, kale, or chard greens in the layers as well.