Many clients are eager, especially as part of New Year’s resolutions, to cut their carbs consumption. And yet they still crave a hearty, warming meal–like lasagna. Now, if you have clients who love eggplant–and all the great ingredients that eggplant complements–you can’t go wrong with this faux “lasagna.”

Eggplant is such a versatile vegetable. Fry them, bake them, roast them, marinate them… the list goes on and on. And you find them in so many cultures around the world, which adds even more to their versatility and the range of flavor profiles you can create.

Here’s a dish that features sliced, roasted eggplant; roasted, peeled red and yellow peppers; homemade tomato sauce, rich with spicy Italian chicken sausage and mushrooms; and lots of garlic mixed into the ricotta, Parmesan, egg mixture. Oh, and let’s not forget the panko mixed with grated Parmesan that tops it all off.

All of these ingredients are layered into a deep 9 by 9-inch ceramic baking dish and baked at high heat for about half an hour. It comes out of the oven brown and bubbling from the cheese. Cut into it and you have layers of sublime flavors all complementing each other. Your clients can pair it with a salad and serve it with a crisp white wine. And, you can freeze it before baking or freeze well wrapped baked slices.

Baked Eggplant and Bell Pepper in Ricotta

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 2 teaspoons for the baking dish and to drizzle on the casserole
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise, about ½ inch thick
3 bell peppers (any color but green, which is too bitter)
2 fresh spicy Italian chicken sausages
4 ounces Cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cups marinara sauce
15 ounces ricotta
3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus ¼ cup reserved for topping
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup panko crumbs

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Place eggplant slices on two half sheet baking pans and brush lightly on both sides with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for about 25 minutes, turning slices over halfway. The eggplant slices should be golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. While the eggplant is roasting, roast the peppers on your stove top or alongside the eggplant until all sides are blackened. Remove and place in a brown paper bag with the top rolled up to steam the skins off the peppers. Wait about 10 minutes and remove the peppers and peel the skins off. Slice in half and remove the core and seeds. Then slice into segments and set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Slice through the sausage casings and add the meat to the skillet. Break it up and sauté until browned. Set aside and add the mushroom slices. Let them brown. Add the sausage meat and the mushrooms to the marina sauce.

4. In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, eggs, garlic, Parmesan cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper.

5. To put the casserole together, brush an 8-inch baking dish with olive oil. Then layer half of the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Follow that with half of the marina sauce and a layer of the peppers. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat these layers and end with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the ¼ cup reserved Parmesan cheese and the panko crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.

What’s your favorite low-carb riff on lasagna? What ingredients do you feature?

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