Have Lots of Eggplant? Make Skillet Eggplant Pastitsio-Parmesan
This is a favorite easy, inexpensive, and quick recipe for using eggplant as well as any leftover spaghetti sauce you might have lingering in your refrigerator. If you aren't lucky enough to have leftover sauce, feel free to use jarred sauce, or try the recipe I've posted below. The eggplant recipe is a combination of the Greek dish, Pastitsio, which usually includes lamb and is topped with a Bechamel sauce, and eggplant Parmesan. My version uses spaghetti sauce made with ground turkey, not lamb, and has a lower-fat version of Bechamel seasoned with Parmesan cheese. The dish isn't heavy on meat, but it does include plenty of cheese, so is protein-rich. If you'd like a fancier-looking dinner, you can certainly broil the Pastitsio-Parmesan before serving it. The broiler will turn the Bechamel golden and bubbly. I usually don't bother, because people are too hungry to wait. The aroma of the Pastitsio-Parmesan cooking is mouth-watering and tummy rumbling.
Skillet Eggplant Pastitsio-Parmesan -- Serves 4+
1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
3 Japanese/Chinese eggplant (the long, thin ones) washed, trimmed, and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 14-15 ounce can of diced tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano
2 cups of home-made spaghetti sauce made with ground turkey (see the recipe below or use commercial marinara sauce
2-3 cups of macaroni cooked until barely soft (about 5 minutes)
1 1/2 cups of Italian blend shredded cheese
2 1/2 cups of low-fat milk
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of dried parsley flakes
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced eggplant and garlic powder and saute the eggplant until it softens, releases much of its moisture, and browns a bit. Stir in the diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the macaroni and let the mixture simmer about 5 minutes more or until the macaroni softens and absorbs some of the moisture from the sauce.
While the eggplant mixture is cooking, in a microwave-safe measuring container (i.e., a large Pyrex measure), whisk the milk, flour, salt, nutmeg, and parsley together. Microwave the mixture in one-minute increments, whisking after each minute, until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese and microwave the mixture a little more (15-30 second increments), if necessary, to further thicken the sauce.
After the eggplant/macaroni mixture has cooked and thickened, turn the heat down to low, and sprinkle the top evenly with the Italian cheese blend. Let the cheese melt a few minutes (put a lid on top of the skillet to speed the process) and then carefully pour on the Bechamel sauce. Some of the red sauce will bubble up through the Bechamel. Don't worry. It will taste fine. If you'd like a crunchy, browned top, heat the broiler, and put the skillet under the broiler for about 5 minutes, watching it carefully to ensure the Bechamel browns but doesn't burn (the burning part happens fast!). Or just eat the Eggplant Pastitsio-Parmesan out of the skillet without broiling the top. It's quite good "as is," and you're less likely to burn your mouth, which you might do if you try to eat it hot from the broiler, which will be really, really tempting.
Ground Turkey Spaghetti Sauce -- Makes Extra (for real spaghetti, etc., later)
2-3 teaspoons of canola oil
1/2 a large onion, chopped
1/2 cup of chopped or shredded carrot
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
16 ounces of lean ground turkey (93 percent)
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
2 teaspoons of Italian herb seasoning
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-16-ounce can of diced tomatoes (Italian style is good)
1/2 cup of red wine
In a large skillet or chef's pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Saute the vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until they begin to soften. Crumble in the ground turkey and sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Saute the vegetable-turkey mixture until the turkey is cooked through--about 10 minutes--turning down the heat to medium after about 5 minutes. Stir in the Italian herbs and basil. Add the crushed and diced tomatoes and the wine. Stir the mixture well, reduce the heat to medium low, and partially cover the pan. Let the sauce simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the sauce has thickened to your liking.