13 April 2012

Baked Anelletti in Aubergine Crust


I start to feel uneasy when my husband plops down beside me on the bed holding his Ipad and start browsing at his virtual menu in the Facebook page of Sicilia (Sicily).  

I know that he finds something interesting when I see him making the images bigger and stay on the picture longer than 3 seconds.  And I also know that he would be asking me to take a look at the image that he finds so compelling.


Being a virtual menu, I look at his choice and check the recipe.  A concession is made when I ask him to bookmark it.  And that sums up how he orders food in his private Sicilian restaurant. 


When he chose this one, I didn't hesitate.  I had a couple of packages of Sicilian anelletti pasta in the pantry that I bought sometime ago in a specialty shop.  They're not usually available in the regular supermarkets so I stocked up.  This kind of pasta, as I have learned, is usually used for baking.  Anelletti al forno (baked anelletti) is originally a Palermitan dish that has a widespread popularity in the whole island of Sicily.  Like with any recipe, every family has a special one to share.  I have encountered different versions, with similarities to each other.  My husband's mother has her own delicious recipe but this time, I wanted to take a step away and experiment on my own. 


I did not follow the recipe he showed me for this pasta, but instead, I used my own ragù (tomato meat sauce) recipe.  I did two versions, one encrusted with grilled aubergines and the other one without.   I could have fried the aubergines and mix them with the pasta as they commonly do in Palermo but I wanted to stay a step lighter by grilling them.  

The difference between the two versions is that the one encrusted with aubergines has kept the moisture intact inside.  The other one instead, was a tad drier.

It's a weekend pasta to enjoy and this coming weekend can be the perfect time to do it.   With a glass of red wine, nothing can be better.

I hope you have a good weekend (and better weather than ours)!



Baked Anelletti in Aubergine Crust

Ingredients:
Serves 2
  • 2 big aubergines, sliced lengthwise with about 1 cm. thickness
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml. Marsala wine 
  • 80 g. tomato concentrate 
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 75 g. ground beef
  • 75 g. ground pork
  • 400 g. tomato puree (canned or bottled) 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 100 g. green peas (frozen or fresh)
  • basil leaves, torn
  • nutmeg
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 250 g. anelletti pasta
  • breadcrumbs 
  • 100 g. provola or caciocavallo, diced
  • 20 g. grated ricotta salata
  • 50 g. parmigiano reggiano
Directions:
  1. On a griddle over medium heat, grill the eggplant slices.  When they are cooked, season them with salt and extra virgin olive oil. Set aside. 
  2. In a bowl, mix the Marsala and tomato concentrate then set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, over medium heat, sautè the onions in extra virgin olive oil. Add the carrots when the onions are cooked through. Cook for about 5 minutes.  
  4. Add the beef and pork.  Cook until they change color, about 10 minutes.  
  5. Pour the Marsala mixture and the tomato puree. 
  6. If you emptied the can or bottle of tomato puree, pour the water inside and swirl it then pour it in the saucepan.   Simmer for 30 minutes on low fire.  
  7. Meantime, in another saucepan, start boiling the water for the pasta.
  8. Add the peas to the sauce and cook for another 15 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, make it thinner by ladling water from the water you are boiling for the pasta.
  9. Add the basil leaves and season with nutmeg, salt & pepper.  
  10. When the water for the pasta boils, pour the pasta in the water and cook them a bit more than halfway through the suggested cooking time.  If it says in the packaging to cook 13 minutes, cook the pasta for only 9 minutes.  The pasta should cook more in the oven so they should still remain very al dente.
  11. Mix the pasta with the sauce.  It should have a lot of sauce so that it doesn't dry up during baking.
  12. Oil a ring mold (I used this one) or baking dish with extra virgin olive oil.  Cover with a thin layer of breadcrumbs that's distributed evenly.  
  13. Cover the bottom and sides with the grilled aubergine slices.  Leave the slices that you put on the sides longer than the border so that you can fold them on top after filling up the baking dish with the pasta.  
  14. Mix the pasta with the different kinds of cheese, leaving a little bit of grated parmigiano reggiano for sprinkling on top.  
  15. Fill up the baking dish with the pasta until the border.  
  16. Cover the pasta with the sliced aubergines that you left hanging on the sides.  Cover with a slice or two on top. 
  17. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and the remaining grated parmigiano reggiano on top.  
  18. Bake at a pre-heated oven of 180 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.  
  19. Let it rest for 15 minutes outside the oven before serving.





20 comments:

  1. I love eggplant--grilled, fried, baked, you name it. I couldn't get enough of it last weekend when I had it in my pasta with prawns and a vodka sauce while visiting Seattle. I know I'd love this. So pretty, too!

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    1. Oh, Jean, that pasta sounds delicious! This is nice when you prepare it in individual servings. Thanks!

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  2. Beautiful. This is an absolute must try!

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    1. Ah, but thank you! You inspired me to try this dish. I made some modifications for the filling but the meal was absolutely delicious. Here is the post
      http://remcooks.com/2012/04/17/cavatappi-in-eggplant-crust-timballo/

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    2. Thank you for sending the link and trying the recipe. I'm glad it went well!

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  3. This dish is a fantastic inspiration to me and it looks delicious. Thank you very much :)

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  4. This looks amazing, your husband knows a good thing when he sees it, doesn't he!

    I have never seen pasta encased in eggplant like this, I will definitely have to try this out :)

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    1. Yes, he usually chooses the good ones, even in the restaurants, which I tend to eat over my own food. :-)

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  5. It looks so fancy and beautiful! I looks very delicate and seems like it requires some skills...but you made it so easily! Another eggplant dish I want to eat...not sure if I can make it this pretty tho. =)

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    1. Nami, it doesn't require skills! Haha! And to think you're the one who makes Japanese food that look so intricate and difficult. You just use the aubergines like a wrapper. Now I wish I took a picture of it. You will make this even prettier than I did. :-)

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  6. Wow, that's really cool. I just found this on foodgawker and I haven't seen something like it before. Cool idea. Beautiful photos too!

    www.bakingmakesthingsbetter.com

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  7. Love this idea of smaller portions. I made a larger version, but you have to have a truckload of people coming or else risk lots of leftovers. I'll be trying this baked anelletti - and pinning it.

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    1. We have the same problem. I am starting to make smaller portions because sometimes the kids don't eat what I bake and my husband and I get stuck with large portions that we are forced to finish. Thanks Linda!

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  8. OMG, it looks so yammy, I must try this :) Love your blog! ;) It is sad that we in Lithuania we don't have provola or caciocavallo :///// Maybe I can use something else???

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    1. The closest cheese you can use is scamorza. If you cannot find it, use something with a mild taste that melts easily. Thank you for dropping by!

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  9. Looks really interesting. Did you use the ring mold simply to mold it, then remove it to make another? Will the eggplant hold it's shape once the ring is off? Or do you have more than one ring mold to make & bake? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Ellen. I used more than one ring mold so I baked them all together. I used the ring molds to hold and retain the shape then when it as cooked, I slipped it off. Remember that the molds have to be well-oiled first before using so that the aubergine will not get stuck on it. Hope that helps.

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