Monika’s Molecular Meals: Paleo Lasagna Bolognese With Eggplant, Cashew Ricotta & Herbed Potato Crumbs

Monika Knapp By Monika Knapp | 20 July 2020 350 views
paleo lasagna

Delicious Paleo Lasagna With Herbed Potato Crumbs

Monika’s Molecular Meals: Paleo Lasagna Bolognese With Eggplant, Cashew Ricotta & Herbed Potato Crumbs

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I won’t lie: This paleo lasagna takes some work. 

But flavor-wise, it’ll deliver in a way no other paleo lasagna recipe I found ever could.

So that work I just mentioned? Totally worth it!

Here’s why:

  • Eggplant is sturdier than zucchini and can hold its shape/retain some texture, even after a couple hours of soaking in a saltwater brine and a quick fry.
  • Cashew ricotta may not be the real thing, but combined with the other flavors in this dish, it hits the creamy, salty, unctuous notes a traditional lasagna should have. 
  • Making a bolognese sauce paleo-friendly does require some substitutions (namely, chicken stock for the milk), but after a few hours of braising, the resulting sauce is still unbeatable. Save your store-bought marinara for another night; for this recipe, we’re bringing out the big guns.
  • Herbed! Potato! Crumbs! Need I say more?
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This recipe calls on traditional Italian ingredients, cooking methods, and techniques, resulting in a dish that comes about as close to the real deal as you can get—while still being fully paleo-compliant.

And with a few extra additions (did I mention herbed potato crumbs??)… you may just end up preferring it over the real deal too.

Plus, you might be surprised at how many of your friends… even those who are big fans of “traditional” pasta… will really LOVE this paleo lasagna.

If you serve it to any friends… or even just your family… be prepared for them to be seriously impressed by this recipe.

In fact, you could even make this dish *fancier* by cutting the eggplant into rounds and assembling adorable little mini lasagnas.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here… first, let’s talk ingredients and methods:

Monika’s Molecular Meals: Paleo Lasagna Bolognese With Eggplant, Cashew Ricotta & Herbed Potato Crumbs

FTH’s Paleo Lasagna With Eggplant, Cashew Ricotta, Bolognese Sauce & Herbed Potato Crumbs

Equipment Needed: 8×13 baking dish; food processor or blender; mandoline (optional)

Recipe Time: 2 days (8 hours/overnight for soaking, plus 4 hours)

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant or 2 medium, peeled, sliced into 1” rounds, and soaked in very salty water for 3-10 hours (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 8 hours or overnight
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic and/or onion powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 medium to large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef chuck, or a combination of beef, pork, and/or veal (see Recipe Notes)
  • 2 cups bone broth or chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups white wine (see Recipe Notes)
  • 3 cups homemade tomato puree, or canned whole peeled tomatoes, juices included
  • 2 medium to large yukon gold potatoes, peeled 
  • Whole nutmeg for grating
  • Avocado oil for frying
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs for garnishing, such as basil, parsley, and thyme
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Directions:

1) Get the sauce going (believe me, you will regret not doing this first).

This sauce is a true triumph of the low & slow method, so it’s best to get this out of the way first so it can do its thing on your stovetop for a few hours.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 10 tbsp of avocado oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrot and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes longer, stirring often.

Add whatever meat you’re using, a couple of generous pinches of salt, and stir with a fork to break the meat pieces apart. Continue cooking until the meat has lost its raw, reddish color.

Turn the heat down to low and add the bone broth or chicken stock. Continue simmering on low until most of the liquid has evaporated. (This can take up to an hour—feel free to skip ahead to other parts of the recipe in the meantime!)

Grate about 1/4 tsp of nutmeg and stir it into the sauce, followed by the wine. Continue simmering on low until the wine is fully evaporated. (This can also take up to a full hour.)

Add the tomato puree, or if you’re using canned tomatoes, crush them by hand and add them with their juices. When the liquid begins to bubble, turn the heat down as low as it can go, and continue cooking for another 3 hours.

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If your sauce threatens to dry, feel free to add 1/2 cup bone broth, chicken stock, or water. You’ll know it’s done when all the liquid has evaporated and the fat separates from the sauce.

Taste and adjust with more seasoning as needed.

2) Make the ricotta.

When the cashews have soaked for long enough, drain them.

Add them to the bowl of a food processor or blender, along with the lemon zest and juice (if you’re not a fan of bright/acidic foods, then only use half the recommended amount of zest), garlic, nutritional yeast, optional garlic/onion powder, and oregano. Grate in 1/4 tsp of fresh nutmeg, add a couple large pinches of salt, and blend until smooth and creamy.

Taste and adjust until it’s a flavor you like, then add the egg and stir until just combined.

3) Prep the eggplant.

After the eggplant slices have soaked for long enough, remove them from the water and pat them dry.

While they dry, heat about 3/4 of an inch of avocado oil in a large frying pan on the stove over medium heat, or until the oil hits 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fry the eggplants for 2-3 minutes per side, or until just starting to turn golden.

Remove them to a double paper towel-lined plate, top with more paper towels, and repeat until you’ve fried all the eggplant.

4) Fry & season the potatoes.

Slice the potatoes on a mandoline into pieces the width of a chip (thin, but not thin enough that you can see through them—1/8 of an inch or so), then rinse them under running water.

Drain them on a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet, and let them dry for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, reheat the eggplant frying oil, or, alternatively, heat about 2” of avocado oil in a frying pan until the temperature reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the oil heats, make your herb seasoning. Combine several very large pinches of salt with herbs of your choice, such as oregano, fresh sage, garlic, thyme, or finely chopped parsley. Taste and adjust as needed (it should be very salty).

Fry about 1/3 of the potatoes at a time until they get golden brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Flip them often to make sure they don’t burn.

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When finished, remove the chips to a paper towel-lined baking sheet or plate, and season with the herb salt immediately.

Repeat until all the potatoes have cooked, then let them cool.

When the chips have cooled, you can crush them by hand in a large bowl, use a mortar and pestle, or give them a couple quick blitzes in a food processor or blender. They should be about the size of breadcrumbs.

5) Assemble and bake!

When the sauce is finished, do a little dance and go to bed. Just kidding—your work isn’t finished yet!

(Don’t worry, we’re almost there.)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and assemble the lasagne like so:

Add a layer of meat sauce, followed by a layer of eggplant, a layer of ricotta, and then the herbed potato crumbs.

Rinse and repeat until the pan is full—just make sure you have enough ricotta and sauce to use for the top of the lasagna! Nobody wants to eat a naked eggplant.

Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, then bake uncovered for another 10 minutes.

Let it sit for 15 minutes before slicing into it (if you have enough self-control—I certainly didn’t!).

Recipe Notes

  • When you soak your eggplants, you may find they rise to the top of the water. You can put a plate on top to keep them fully submerged.
  • The original recipe by Marcella Hazan calls for beef and pork, though I often like to use 100% pork since beef is so bad for the environment and I prefer the flavor of pork. Not getting on a soapbox or anything (I haven’t given up beef entirely!), just clarifying. Veal makes a sublime addition as well, though there are also ethical concerns there.
  • I know white wine isn’t technically paleo, but for this recipe, it’s entirely cooked out. There’s no alcohol in the finished product, just the flavor.
Monika’s Molecular Meals: Paleo Lasagna Bolognese With Eggplant, Cashew Ricotta & Herbed Potato Crumbs

How To Make This Meal Vegetarian Without Compromising Any Flavor (Plus An Easy Technique To Cut The Cooking Time In HALF)…

Now, I know that not *everyone* is going to be on-board with every ingredient in this recipe (even though it’s totally delicious).

Take those who prefer not to eat meat, for example.

If you’ve got vegetarians in your house or you’d rather make this dish a little lighter, you can easily substitute a combination of dried & rehydrated porcini mushrooms, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, or creminis for the meat.

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If you use rehydrated porcinis, reserve some of the soaking liquid to use in the sauce for an extra umami kick!

Easy enough, right? (And tasty, too!)

Interested in cutting down on cooking time?

Yes, there’s even a hack for making this delicious paleo lasagna recipe faster.

Try my easy low-carb spaghetti sauce, and ditch the bolognese entirely—just sub in avocado oil for the butter. It won’t taste the same, but it’ll still be good (and a whole lot less work).

Did You Know Swapping Out REAL Cheese For Cashew Ricotta In This Lasagna Can Actually Support Weight Loss & Increased Fat Burn?

I’m not kidding… it’s science!

(So don’t let those sad people who say cheese makes you gain weight convince you… because science is on my side.)

Now, I know this isn’t *technically* paleo… and lasagna isn’t generally known as a weight-loss food… but hear me out for a second:

A recent study found that Parmigiano Reggiano (yes, the cheese you already know and love… and makes pasta SO much more delicious) contains a special fat-burning nutrient that has been linked to an increase in immune function… 

…has also been shown to fight allergy & UTI symptoms… 

…and has even been linked to increased fat loss for women (not for men though… so ladies, here’s your permission not to share!).

So simply by using parm instead of the cashew ricotta… or even adding a little parm to the cashew ricotta (yum!)… you can serve a delicious, nutritious dinner, AND support a healthy weight…

…without compromising flavor or having to make a ton of annoying and time-consuming ingredient substitutions.

And there’s even more good news: parm isn’t the only cheese that’s been scientifically linked to weight loss & increased fat burn

(So basically, you can make a cheese plate and lose weight when you eat it? That’s my dream!)

There are actually two more mouth-watering cheeses you can eat to boost your metabolism & peel off the pounds, and you can click here to see what they are. 🙂

[This post was updated by Fit Trim Happy on July 20, 2020.]