Eggplant Lasagna & Chianti Reserva



Ok, let’s get this out of the way at the start…you can substitute our choice of eggplant lasagna for just about any dish with a hearty Italian red tomato sauce as a central component, and still have a delicious pairing with a Chianti Classico or Reserva. And there is little to nothing that gets my taste buds and stomach into a state of euphoria better than Italian food and Italian wine.

The base grape in Chianti is Sangiovese, and its high acidity matches up with the acidity in tomatoes perfectly. The difference between a Classico and a Reserva is additional aging for the Reserva, giving it a boost of savoriness and elegance. It is made in its namesake region in Tuscany, Italy, and from a blend of primarily Sangiovese grapes with small percentages allowed (though not required) of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other black grapes.

A good Chianti will smell and taste like Italy in a glass: sour cherry preserves, balsamic reduction, espresso, sweet tobacco, dried oregano, dry salami and smokiness. The high acidity in the wine is ideally suited for standing up to tomato sauces, and its ample tannins will cut through rich and fatty dishes (think roasted lamb and steak).

We love it with our eggplant lasagna because of its multiple layers of crispy eggplant, noodles and cheeses (a blend of mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and gran padano), lots of fresh basil and spinach leaves, and generous amounts of garlic (to not be generous would be like making peanut butter and jelly without the peanut butter). The richness of those ingredients when playing together sing with the complexity of flavors in a Chianti. 

At the end of the day, Chianti is just so good that a simple sliced tomato would be considered cool if seen on a date with it. But paired with our eggplant lasagna, and the two are Romeo and Juliet without anyone dying at the end.

The Food




For the vegetables…
2 large eggplants, sliced thin and purged
8 to 10 basil leaves, julienned
1 bag/box of fresh spinach leaves
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

For the cheeses…
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup freshly grated gran padano cheese
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 pints of ricotta cheese

Everything else…
No-boil lasagna noodles
1 cup flour
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
Freshly made tomato sauce [click here for recipe]


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Set rack in the middle of the oven.

Prepping the vegetables…

  1. Cut off the top and bottom of the eggplant. We like leaving the skin on, but you could peel the skin from the eggplant if you prefer.
  2. Cut the eggplant across its width, creating slices about 1/4-1/2 inch thick that look like discs.
  3. Line the slices on the sides of a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Layer more slices on top and sprinkle again with salt. Continue until no more slices remain, sprinkling salt on top of each layer.
  4. Place a dish under the colander to catch water that will be expelled from the eggplant. Let the eggplant sit for 60 minutes.
  5. After the last step has been completed, pat each eggplant slice thoroughly dry with paper towels; set aside.
  6. In the same pan at medium heat, add your garlic and saute until fragrant; add spinach and saute until completely soft, drizzling some olive oil if pan is dry

Frying the Eggplant…

  1. In a deep dish bowl mix flour, breadcrumbs, black pepper and salt
  2. In a large frying pan over high heat, pour enough extra virgin olive oil in to come 1 1/2 inches up the sides.
  3. Dredge the slices of eggplant in dry mixture, coating them on both sides. Then place them one by one into the hot oil. Only put as many eggplant slices into the pan that will fit in one single layer; do not stack.
  4. Once the bottoms of the eggplants slices are golden and crispy, flip each over and repeat on the other side.
  5. Remove from the fryer when done and place on a cookie rack or paper towel over a plate.
  6. Continue frying the remaining pieces.

Note: if you run out of your dry mixture, add equal proportions of ingredients to finish your quantity of eggplant. Dry mixture can be reserved in airtight container for up to two weeks.

Building the lasagna…

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Smear the bottom and sides of the baking dish with some of your tomato sauce.
  3. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom, and spread a little bit of your tomato sauce over them, then a layer of eggplant slices, then a tablespoon of ricotta on each eggplant slice, then a layer of mozzarella slices, some of your basil and spinach spread over, and finally some of the parmesan and gran padano cheese.
  4. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles, and repeat the same order of ingredients until all have been used. You will have multiple layers in your dish depending on its depth.
  5. The last layer should be of lasagna noodles, lightly coated with tomato sauce and sprinkled with the parmesan and gran padano cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place on the center of a baking pan (which will act to catch any bubbling sauce or cheese that would otherwise burn at the bottom of your oven) and then in the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes or until the center is hot.
  6. Uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes if you want a crispy top.
  7. Let it sit for ten minutes before bringing to the table and cutting into it (allowing lasagna to meld)!
  8. Serve with the remaining grated parmesan and gran padano cheese, and tomato sauce, and consider a spoon over a fork as your utensil of choice.

The Wine



Chianti Classico requires at least 10 months of aging, while Chianti Riserva requires thirty-eight months of aging in a barrel and then three months in the bottle before you will find it on a wine shop's shelf.

Profile Brief:
Primary Grapes: Sangiovese.
Secondary Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Canaiolo, Colorino and Merlot.
Body: Medium
Acidity: High
Tannins: Medium-High
Alcohol: Medium
Flavors: Sour cherry preserves, balsamic reduction, espresso, sweet tobacco, dried oregano, dry salami and smokiness.

Photo Credit
An afternoon of some reading at Castello di Ama, in Tuscany, Italy. Wild strawberry, roses and herb aromas on the nose, with juicy raspberry, red cherry and baking spices on your palate. Just smooth. Perfect to sip with that view.

Buen Provecho!

Expressing to you so much more than simply "enjoy your meal".