Italian cuisine: Baked Pasta with Eggplant and Caciocavallo
- WTI Magazine #168 Oct 21, 2023
October is National Italian American Heritage Month and National Pasta Month. One of the most iconic dishes of the Italian-American table is baked pasta. As the weather turns cooler, this Southern Italian recipe is the crowning glory of any Sunday Supper table.
The recipe is from my Mediterranean Lifestyle for Dummies book, and is a perfect example of how artisan pasta, made with fresh, high quality ingredients can be enjoyed with both pleasure and health in mind.
Prep time: 20 min Cook time: 1 hour Yield: 8 servings
2 medium eggplants
Unrefined sea salt
¼ cup Amy Riolo Selections extra-virgin olive oil or other good quality olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed plum tomatoes or equivalent in homemade tomato sauce
Handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3 hardboiled eggs, peeled and diced
¼ pound caciocavallo cheese, or other semi-aged cows milk cheese, cut in to thin slices
1 cup pecorino Crotonese (or other good quality pecorino) cheese
1 pound Amy Riolo Selections Maccheroni Pugliesi, rigatoni , or penne shaped pasta
1 Cut the stem off the eggplants and cut them in to large cubes. Place them in a colander and cover with ¼ salt and let stand to draw moisture out of eggplant cubes.
2 If you don’t have fresh tomato sauce on hand, start by heating 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
3 Add the garlic and stir with a wooden spoon. The minute that it releases its’ aroma (prior to turning color) add the plum tomatoes and stir with a wooden spoon.
4 Add the basil and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to boil over high heat. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully remove lid, stir, being sure to incorporate the bits from the sides of the pan, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Tip: This type of dish is “a meal in itself” and makes an easy and impressive lunch or dinner with a simple green salad.
Note: Calabrians loved baked pasta dishes – this one combines beloved eggplant with the region’s prized Caciocavallo Silano cheese. Even hard-boiled eggs (another regional touch) get added in to the mix.
Vary It! You can use different types of pasta and cheese to come up with your own favorite combination of this classic dish. You can also add in leftover bits of vegetables and meat on occasion. I often swap out the tomato sauce for Amy Riolo Selections Sundried Red Pesto.