Egunsi Lasagna: A Delicious Collision of Cultures

Being born and raised in Nigeria and growing up in the United States, I’ve always felt that I’ve straddled two cultures. I’ve found joy in the ways that I’ve been able to bring them together, especially through food. This recipe relies on three Nigerian staples – Obe Ata, Egunsi seed, and Iru – to make this classic Italian dish. Let’s get into the details.

A Little Bit About Lasagna

It’s possible that lasagna is one of the oldest styles of pasta dishes. It’s made by stacking flat, wide sheets of pasta and various fillings. Meat sauce, vegetables, and cheese are all popular filling choices. The whole assembled dish is then baked until the sauce is bubbling hot and the cheese is just starting to brown.

The Italians really know how to do comfort food, don’t they? And according to some accounts, they’ve been making lasagna since the Middle Ages.

Recipes for lasagna tend to vary by region. In Naples, which is in the south, the dish usually contains local sausage and even hard-boiled eggs. In the Emilia-Romagna region in the north, however, the lasagna is usually layered with a thick meat sauce as well as béchamel. This is usually the type of lasagna you’ll find most often outside of Italy.

My West African Lasagna

Much like Italian cuisine, African and West African foods also vary greatly by region and follow their own local traditions. I was so excited to put my own spin on a dish like a classic lasagna with the flavors I grew up with. 

I originally thought about putting together a dish like this because my Thanksgiving has never been traditional. Since my family moved from Nigeria, we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving with the same traditional, American foods. We always included Jollof rice and other celebratory West African dishes.

This lasagna is deliciously rich and gooey, creamy, comforting, and the perfect addition to the menu for your holiday season. Think about using it to replace your classic mac and cheese. I use my Obe Ata soup as a base for the sauce, and I pack it full with other flavor powerhouses, like Iru. By infusing it with Iru (fermented locust bean), it adds that rich umami flavor that’s really at the heart of African food culture.

The Egunsi Hummus in the recipe serves as a replacement for the ricotta cheese. We use Egunsi seeds for a variety of different dishes, but one thing we love to use them for is to thicken up a sauce or a stew.

It works the same way here, to get that kind of cheesy consistency. What we end up with is a delicious meal with a ricotta substitute. You can make the dish entirely vegan by opting for dairy free cheese options for the mozzarella and parmesan as well.

I can’t wait for you to make it.

Egunsi Lasagna Recipe

Timing & Servings: 6 - 8 

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes 

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

Egunsi Hummus:

Sauce:

For the Lasagna:

  • 1 ½ Cups Frozen Spinach 
  • 1/4 Cup Egunsi Seed *Toasted 
  • 2/3 Cup Parmesan Cheese 
  • 1 Cup Mozzarella
  • 9 -12 sheets of Lasagna Pasta

For the Caramelized Onions:

  • 1 Medium Onion, sliced
  • 1/4 Tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper 
  • 1 Tbsp. Oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Make the hummus: follow the cooking directions on our post for Egunsi Hummus. You can add eggs if you need to firm up the base of the Egunsi hummus, but it’s not necessary.
  2. Cook the pasta: to cook your lasagna sheets, follow the directions on the box. You can use both boiled as well as no-boil lasagna noodles.
  3. Make your caramelized onions: heat your oil in a pan over medium until hot, then add your sliced onions. Season with salt and pepper, and turn down the heat so you can cook them low and slow. Cook until they’re translucent and have taken on some color. Set aside.
  4. Let your frozen spinach defrost and squeeze out any excess water. Then, add it to a food processor with the toasted Egunsi seed, caramelized onions, and 3/4 cups of grated parmesan. Pulse until fully incorporated. If you do not have a food processor, roughly chop the mixture on a cutting board. 
  5. For the Obe Ata iru Sauce: Add 1 Tbsp of oil and diced onion to a pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, then add Obe Ata soup, iru, Ekaterra Country Onion, Ekaterra Native All Purpose Seasoning, and fresh thyme. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, or until it has reduced by about a quarter. Set aside. 
  6. Assembling the lasagna: in a 9x13 baking dish, put down a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Add your first sheets of lasagna noodles. Add ⅓ of your Egunsi hummus, ⅓ of your spinach mixture, ⅓ of your Obe Ata sauce, then sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat for two more layers.
  7. The top of the lasagna should be a layer of cheese. Cover and bake, or you can make up to 24 hours ahead.
  8. To bake the lasagna, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake covered with foil or an oven safe lid for 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes until the top is golden brown. If you’ve baked it for a while and you’re not getting the color you’d like, set the oven to broil to get that perfectly golden brown color in about 5-8 minutes (just make sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn).
  9. Let the lasagna cool for 1-1.5 hours, then serve.

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