Friday, April 24, 2009

Baked Pasta with Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper

Ingredients (serves 5-6):
  • Canned tomato x 1 big can
  • Eggplant x 2 baby eggplants, or 1 medium size normal eggplant
  • Bell Pepper x 1 medium size
  • Rigatoni x 1 bag
  • Mozzarella Cheese x 1/2 of a ball
  • Smoked Gouda A bit less than the mozzarella (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic 2 Cloves, finely chopped
  • Red Onion 1/2 of a medium size, finely chopped
  • Fresh herbs as much as you fancy! I usually use cilantro or basil
  • Kalamata Olives 10-15, de-pitted and chopped
  • Chili x 1 de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • Pine nut x 1/4 cup
  • Salt, black pepper and olive oil
Roast a bell pepper in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 375, turn every 10 minutes. Once blackened, sweat for 3 minutes (cover in a plastic container), then peel the black skin, chop and set aside.

Meanwhile prepare the eggplant: there are 2 ways, one is to roast it (you can put it in the oven with the bell pepper), once the inside is soft, it is ready. the other way is to fry it (which is the less healthy way cuz eggplant is like a sponge and sucks up so much oil, BUT it's definitely the tastier way!). If you want to fry, chop the eggplant in rings (1 cm thick), heat (a bit higher than medium) and oil a pan (be generous!). Turn every 2-3 minutes until both sides are golden brown. when you turn the eggplant you should add a bit more oil (I know, its a lot of oil! but after the eggplants are fried, you can put them in a bowl to drain the oil out and use that to cook the sauce ...)

Now, boil water in a big pot, add a good pinch of salt and start cooking the pasta (cook for 9-10 minutes, don't over cook the pasta, you will be baking it later...). Use a separate big pan for the sauce. Heat and add oil, garlic and onion, fry for 3 minutes, add the tomato, some salt and pepper and some fresh herb. after a couple of minutes, add the eggplant, roasted red pepper, olives and chili. mix well and let it simmer for 7-8 minutes. Taste to see if it needs seasoning. Take the pasta off the heat and drain most of the water (let some stay in the pot ... the starchy pasta water helps the sauce stick to the noodles easier). mix the pasta with the sauce in the big pot. then pour one layer of the mix into a baking pan, add a layer of cheese and sprinkle some herbs. Repeat this step one more time and top up with a good amount of cheese. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 F until the top layer of cheese is golden brown. Take out of the oven, eat and noosh e jaan!

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