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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

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
  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.