Mediterranean Pasta Bake with Eggplant


Prep Time

45-60 minutes

Prep Notes

                (Note: 3-4 zucchini can replace the eggplant, if desired)

Cooking Time

20-30 minutes

Yields

6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 large eggplants, unpeeled

2 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1/3-cupolive or grapeseed oil, plus more for the pan

1#elbow macaroni, cooked (can use whole grain)

½ #mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

3-4C. baby spinach, coarsely chopped

2c. tomato sauce (see plain tomato sauce)*

Plain tomato sauce recipe below

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

* Plain tomato sauce: 

2-28 oz cans Italian Tomatoes (do not drain)

1-8oz can tomato sauce.

Blend each can of tomatoes with juice in the blender on puree then place in a medium saucepan.  Add the can of tomatosauce to the pan.

Add 1 T. of extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 whole cloves of garlic (peeled),

¼-½t. sea salt and 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper.  Stir.

Simmer tomatoes over medium low heat about 20 minutes (you don’t want it to boil; justsimmer, stirring occasionally). Then add ¼-1/2 tsp ground fennel and about 1t. organic sugar (optional)*.  Simmer for another 20 minutes or so.  Stir occasionally.

Directions

Method:

Remove the green cap of the eggplants and discard, but don’t peel the vegetable.  Rinse the eggplants, pat dry with paper towels, and cut either lengthwise or crosswise into ½ “ slices, or thinner if desired. 

Sprinkle the slices with the salt and pepper, covering all over.  Then wrap the slices tightly in either paper towels or a clean cloth, top with a heavy weight such as a cast-iron skillet, and let sit for at least 30 minutes to press out as much water as possible from the eggplant.  Using fresh paper towels, pat the eggplant slices as dry as possible. 

Preheat the oven to 400*

Pour the 1/3-cup of oil in a jellyroll or baking sheet and use a pastry brush to spread evenly. Heat the pan with the oil in a 400 oven for 5 minutes or until very hot.   Arrange the eggplantin the hot oil and turn once so both sides are coated.  Set the pan on the lower oven shelf.  Bake the eggplant for 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and lightly browned, turning the eggplant overat least once.  You may have to brown the eggplant in batches.  Meanwhile,cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions. When you drain the pasta, add the spinach to the colander so it gently steams. 

When the eggplant is browned, arrange the sauce, macaroni/spinach, eggplant, and cheese in alternate layers in a 2-quart shallow casserole or lasagna pan generously spooning over the tomato sauce after each layer, ending with the sauce the nmozzarella cheese. 

Sprinkle the last layer of mozzarella cheese with the Parmesan cheese.   Return the composed dish back to the hot oven and place on the lower shelf.  Heat the casserole until hot and bubbly, about 20minutes.  Serve immediately.

Notes

Nutrition perserving:

Calories:  700

Carbs:  83g

Protein:  28g

Fat:  29 g

SatFat:  8g

Cholesterol:  27mg

Sodium:  1395mg

Calcium:  440mg

Fiber:  13g

Credit

Originally from the Star Tribune Taste Section with some modifications from PHC