Every year for Fabio’s birthday, I always ask him what he wants to eat for his birthday dinner. One year it was empanadas and coxinhas, one year he requested carrot cake, and one year he asked me to make him a lasagna. I thought, no biggie, lasagna is easy, I’ve made it plenty of times before. Fabio kept questioning me, asking if I knew how to make it: “You know, lasagna – with big noodles, meat sauce, ham, white sauce”….what?! Lo and behold, after a little research, I realized that the Brazilians had done it again. Taken what might be considered a standard, traditional dish, and just added all the fat. When I looked up a recipe, it went like this: one layer of beef bolognese, one layer of lasagna noodles. Another layer of bolognese, a layer of white béchamel sauce, followed layers of sliced mozzarella cheese and sliced ham (called presunto in Portuguese). Holy heart attack. I did make it that one year for Fabio for his birthday, but begged him to not eat the whole thing in one sitting, for fear that he would croak in minutes.
Now that I’ve had some time to come up with a lightened up version….I really think I’m on to something here. (This recipe passed the can’t-get-through-a-photoshoot-because-I-can’t-stop-eating-it test!) There are so many different flavors and textures and layers going on in this lasagna (spelled lasanha in Portuguese, btw), that there is nothing about it that tastes “light” or “low-carb”. But it is! Bada bing bada boom.
In lieu of pasta, I used tender eggplant and zucchini. To replace the beef bolognese sauce, I made this lasagna with a turkey bolognese. It’s actually this exact recipe from a few posts ago, made with zucchini noodles! I still made it with mozzarella and sliced ham, but I used shredded cheese rather than slices (still covers a large area but uses less cheese) and if you buy extra thin slices of ham, no harm done there.
Now, the final mystery: that béchamel sauce!? I didn’t want to omit it altogether, because the white sauce is a big part of what makes a Brazilian Lasanha. I came across this recipe from Pinch of Yum, called Creamy Cauliflower Sauce. This stuff is amazing! And if you aren’t familiar with Pinch of Yum, they run an AMAZING food blog over there. **When I made this sauce, I added a drizzle of olive oil and about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan at the end, as the notes suggest.
- 2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into ribbons
- 2 zucchini, sliced into ribbons
- 1 recipe Turkey Bolognese
- 1 recipe Creamy Cauliflower Sauce, from Pinch of Yum
- 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 12 thin slices of deli ham
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Spray two large baking sheets with cooking spray. Line the sliced eggplant and zucchini on the baking sheets (do not overcrowd) and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway, until soft and brown. Remove from oven and place on paper towels to soak up any additional liquid.
- To assemble the lasagna, use a 9x13 glass baking dish (aka: large rectangular baking dish). Start with a layer of eggplant and veggies. Use about six slices of eggplant, and add two rows if zucchini slices in the cracks. Spoon a layer of bolognese on top. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the bolognese, then layer about 6 slices of ham on top. Spoon a layer of cauliflower sauce on top. Repeat layers once more, ending with the top layer of cauliflower sauce. Top with grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake for about 1½ hours. There will be LOTS of liquid released from the eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, and veggies in the bolognese. Periodically throughout the baking, remove dish from oven and use a spoon (or even a turkey baster) to remove as much liquid as you can.