By Michelle Fabio
For those of you who like lasagna but are bored with the same old layered version, I present to you baked pasta with eggplant, fresh from my kitchen in southern Italy.
This is a delicious, hearty dish that feeds lots of people, so it’s particularly great at holiday time!
Baked Pasta with Eggplant
– 3 medium eggplants
– 200 grams of pancetta, cubed
– 1 large clove of garlic, minced
– One large jar of tomato sauce or peeled tomatoes
– 3 large basil leaves
– 500 grams of short pasta like penne or rigatoni
– One medium ball of mozzarella
– Equal size ball of provola or your favorite mild, meltable cheese
– Olive oil
– Grated parmesan cheese
1. Cut eggplant into bite-sized chunks, place in strainer, and salt well. Let sit for about an hour.
2. In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and then add garlic and pancetta. Let cook for a few minutes until pancetta has rendered its fat.
3. Add tomatoes and let simmer for about a half hour. Adjust for salt and stir in torn basil leaves.
4. Remove sauce from heat, cover, and set aside.
5. Start heating water for pasta, and preheat oven to 390Â°F/200Â°C.
6. Rinse eggplant in strainer, pat dry, and then dredge each piece in flour. Fry in a pan of hot oil (I use last year’s olive oil). Remove when just brown, and let drain on paper towels.
7. When water is boiling, add salt and pasta, and let cook for about half the suggested cooking time listed on the package. Strain pasta and return it to the pot.
8. Stir just enough sauce into the pasta to keep it from sticking to one another.
9. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with a thin layer of sauce and then add half the pasta. Sprinkle in half the cheese and the eggplant.
10. Top with more sauce and then add the rest of the pasta, then the cheese and then some more sauce. Grate some parmesan on top for good measure.
11. Cover with foil, put in oven, and bake for 20 minutes or until pasta is done.
12. Let cool for a few minutes before serving, but not too long; you want that mozzarella nice and fresh and stringy when served.