This roasted eggplant lasagna recipe is one of the first recipes we ever shared here on PWWB. It’s one of my all-time favorites & everyone who tries it raves about it. If you’ve never tried making lasagna with eggplant – you’re in very good hands here! What makes this recipe stand out is its layers of flavor & texture. Every slice has gorgeous layers of roasted eggplant, rich & meaty bolognese sauce, a creamy herbed ricotta filling, &, of course, plenty of melty cheese.
The secret to building a perfect eggplant lasagna – one that has hearty pieces of eggplant without being watery – is pre-roasting the eggplant. Slice it thin, brush it with oil, & roast with really high heat to draw out excess water & concentrate its beautiful flavor. This step takes some time but it’s mostly hands-off & yields absolutely perfect results. If you’d like to speed things up a bit, try cooking the eggplant on the grill, which creates a similar effect in a fraction of the time.
The other great thing about this recipe is it’s pretty flexible. As written, this eggplant lasagna is made with meat, cheese, & noodles, but you can easily make some swaps & adjustments to accommodate a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free diet. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for some guidance to get you started!
- nonstick cooking spray
- turkey bolognese sauce, below
- 3–4 sheets dried lasagna
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 pounds eggplant (approx 2 medium eggplants), sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (roughly 10–12 sprigs or substitute with a generous pinch of dried thyme)
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
for the turkey bolognese sauce:
- 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- one 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped or crushed by hand
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 8–10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- optional: 1 parmesan rind
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or water
- 1/2 cup half & half
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, ensuring racks are positioned in the upper & lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper & set aside. Slice the eggplant & prepare the bolognese veggies (carrot, celery, onion, garlic, San Marzano tomatoes) according to the Ingredients List, above.
- Roast the eggplant: Arrange the sliced eggplant on the prepared baking sheets. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat both sides of the sliced eggplant with olive oil, seasoning with about 2 teaspoons kosher salt as you go. Transfer to the oven. Roast the eggplant 30 minutes, flipping the eggplant & rotating the sheet pans halfway through, until nicely browned. Remove from the oven & set aside for eggplant lasagna assembly, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (Alternately, if you have access to an outdoor grill, you can grill the sliced & seasoned eggplant over medium-high direct heat (450-500 degrees F) for 3-4 minutes per side.) [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="32686,32689"]
- Prepare the ricotta cheese mixture: Meanwhile, as the eggplant roasts, prepare the ricotta cheese mixture. Add the ricotta, egg, & fresh thyme to a medium mixing bowl, seasoning with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir until combined. Set aside for eggplant lasagna assembly, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Begin the turkey bolognese sauce – brown the soffritto: Meanwhile, as the eggplant roasts, prep the turkey bolognese. Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven (or large, heavy-bottomed pot with lid) over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the carrots, celery, & onion. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned & fragrant, 15-20 minutes. If the veggies begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low. Once browned, push the soffritto mixture to the outer edges of the pot.
- Brown the turkey: Add the ground turkey to the center of the pot, such that it’s surrounded by the soffritto mixture, & season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce heat to medium. Let the turkey brown 2-3 minutes without touching it, then turn it over & brown the second side 2-3 minutes before using a wooden spoon to break it apart into bite-sized pieces. Stir to combine with the soffritto mixture.
- Build the turkey bolognese sauce: Add the garlic & tomato paste to the Dutch oven, stirring to coat the ground turkey soffritto mixture. Cook 2-3 minutes, until browned & fragrant, then build the bolognese sauce. Deglaze the pan by slowly pouring in the white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan. Once the wine is almost completely cooked off, add in the chopped San Marzano tomatoes & their juices, fresh rosemary & thyme, bay leaves, parmesan rind (if using), & chicken stock or water. Stir to combine. Bring the bolognese to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pot (place the lid on the pot such that it’s just partially covered, allowing some steam to escape as the sauce simmers) & simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.
- Finish the turkey bolognese sauce: Remove the lid, increasing heat to medium-high to maintain a steady simmer. Stir the half & half and grated parmesan into the bolognese. Cook 1-2 minutes, allowing everything to meld together. Remove from the heat & set aside for eggplant lasagna assembly, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Prepare for eggplant lasagna assembly: Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F, rearranging the oven racks such that a rack is positioned in the center of the oven. Spray a large piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray & set aside. Spray a 9×9 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle a little of the turkey bolognese sauce into the baking dish – just enough to coat the bottom & prevent sticking – & spread it out to create an evenly coat the bottom.
- Eggplant lasagna assembly: This eggplant lasagna consists of 3 key layers:
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- Layer 1: Arrange half the roasted eggplant such that it covers the bottom of the pan. Be sure to overlap to create a nice, even layer. Ladle 1/3 of the remaining bolognese over top, spreading into an even layer. Spoon 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over top, spreading into an even layer. Sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella over top in an even layer.
- Layer 2: Arrange the uncooked lasagna noodles in an even layer, positioning them such that there are minimal gaps in between without overlapping them – you may need to get crafty & break the noodles to fill your baking dish nicely (see photos, above, for reference). Ladle 1/2 of the remaining bolognese over top, spreading into an even layer. Spoon 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over top, spreading into an even layer. Sprinkle 1/2 of the shredded mozzarella over top in an even layer.
- Layer 3: Repeat Layer 1, using all remaining ingredients. Finish the lasagna by sprinkling the grated parmesan in an even layer over top. Cover the baking sheet with the prepared foil, taking care to avoid pressing it against the cheesy top of the lasagna.
- Bake the eggplant lasagna: Place the pan on top of a small baking sheet, then transfer to the oven & bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the eggplant lasagna is bubbling & the cheese appears well melted. Carefully remove the foil & turn the oven’s broiler on high. Broil the lasagna on the center rack for about 5 minutes, keeping a close eye on it as it broiled to make sure it doesn’t burn, until it’s as bubbly & golden brown as you like.
- Rest, slice, & serve: Carefully remove the lasagna from the oven. Set aside to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing into 9 pieces & serving. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Ground turkey: To make the best turkey bolognese sauce possible, the ground turkey you use decent fat content, otherwise the meat will dry out as the sauce simmers. Look for at most 93% lean, though if you can find 85-90% or ground dark meat/turkey thighs that’s even better! If you prefer to use a different protein – go for it! Try chicken or beef &/or pork!
- San Marzano tomatoes are a special Italian plum tomato grown in the San Marzano region near Naples, Italy, where the volcanic soil produces sweeter, less acidic tomatoes. They are picked at peak ripeness to preserve the best flavor throughout the canning process. They are readily available in the canned tomato aisle in most conventional grocery stores, though you can typically be sure to find them at an Italian market. Be sure to look for DOP certification noted on the label, which ensures the tomatoes are authentic San Marzano tomatoes. If you cannot find authentic San Marzano tomatoes at the store, regular whole peeled tomatoes will work great as a quick substitute – even better if they’re “San Marzano-style” tomatoes!
- Make-Ahead Eggplant Lasagna: Since there are a number of different components involved in this eggplant lasagna recipe, prepping it ahead of time is a great option for weeknight cooking or entertaining. There are 2 make-ahead approaches you can take depending on the amount of time you have to prep:
- Make-Ahead Approach #1 – Prepping components in advance. If you prefer to prep individual components & assemble the lasagna later, this approach is for you. Roast the eggplant (Step 2), mix the ricotta (Step 3) &/or prepare the turkey bolognese (Steps 4-7). Store the components in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, until you’d like to assemble & bake your eggplant lasagna.
- Make-Ahead Approach #2 – Assemble the lasagna in advance. Assemble the eggplant lasagna in full (Steps 1-9), then store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. (As a bonus, the eggplant soaks up any excess liquid in the lasagna as it sits, making it much easier to slice & serve picture-perfect pieces!) At dinnertime, simply preheat & bake according to Steps 8 & 10, noting you may have to add 5-10 minutes of baking time to ensure the lasagna warms through.
- Storage, Reheating, & Freezing:
- Eggplant Lasagna Storage & Reheating: Store any leftover eggplant lasagna in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- Eggplant Lasagna Freezer Instructions: This eggplant lasagna is also incredibly freezer-friendly. Transfer cooled leftovers to a freezer container or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – these are my absolute favorite freezer containers! – & freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen eggplant in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Easily reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- Other tips & tricks:
- Eliminate the pasta altogether: While I like the structure the pasta adds to the lasagna, you can eliminate this layer altogether by replacing it with another eggplant layer. Just prep 1 additional eggplant.
- Double it up & freeze it for later: This recipe is SO easy to double up, you just need one additional baking dish. Assemble both lasagnas at the same time & when you throw one into the oven, toss the other into the freezer (or give it to a neighbor, friend, etc.). If covered well with foil, it will keep for about 2 months. Pull it out the night before you’d like to serve it & let it thaw in the fridge.
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