Also known as Pasta con le Melanzane
For the eggplant:
4 lbs eggplant
about 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups peanut oil
For the sauce:
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef
2 tablespoons fresh basil, torn into pieces
2 bay leaves, fresh if possible
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 lbs fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or the equivalent in canned Italian plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
For the pasta:
1 lb 4 oz packaged rigatoni
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oz freshly grated Gruyere cheese
4 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Peel and cut the eggplant into slices 1/4 inch thick. Layer the eggplant slices in a colander, salting each layer. Place a heavy plate on top with a weight, and leave for 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry.
Put flour in a large bowl. Lightly dredge as many eggplant slices as will fit into the skillet.
Transfer the slices to a large sieve and toss about to remove excess flour. (Flour enough slices for one batch only, or the flour will become damp and the slices will not fry well).
Heat the oil to hot in a large skillet and lightly brown the eggplant on both sides. Line a colander with paper towels and drain the slices, one layer at a time, covering each layer with more paper towels. When all the slices have been fried, set aside, reserving the frying oil, and prepare the sauce.
Drain 1/4 cup of the oil in which the eggplant has been fried through paper towels into a clean skillet.
Saut the chopped onion in the oil until transparent but not browned. Add the meat, basil, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Saut until the meat is on longer pink, then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for 15 minutes.
Bring 5 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons coarse salt to a boil in a large pasta pot and boil the rigatoni for 4 minutes only. Add 2 cups of cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain; then mix with the butter, Gruyere and Parmesan.
Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and add the sauce to the pasta, mixing thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line a deep ovenproof dish with eggplant slices (we use a 10-inch; 25-cm terra-cotta casserole). Add a layer of half the pasta, then a layer of eggplant slices and a layer of the remaining pasta, ending with eggplant slices.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Notes: Be sure the oil is hot enough or the eggplant will soak it up like a sponge. Test the oil by dropping in a
small piece of bread; it will color quickly when the oil is ready. The temperature easily drops during the cooking, so take care that it remains high for each new batch of eggplant.
Notes: If prepared in advance, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before heating. Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 40 minutes. This freezes well.
Please Note: Nutritional values listed may vary from final results depending on actual measurements and brands used to prepare the recipe.
Per serving: Calories 724 – Protein 21g – Total Fat 44g – Sodium 968mg – Cholesterol 45mg – Carbohydrates 65g – Fiber – 2g