Eggplant and Spaghetti Timballo

Timballo di Melanzane e Spaghetti

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2 large eggplant
14 ounces spaghetti
1-pound can of tomatoes
6 ounces salted ricotta, shredded or pecorino romano
2 cloves garlic, crushed
20 basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil

Wash the eggplant and cut them lengthwise into half-inch slices. Put the slices in a colander, salting each layer, and set the colander in the sink for an hour to allow the salt to draw the juices from the eggplant.

Sauté the garlic in 3 tablespoons of oil until it begins to turn golden, then remove and discard it. Crumble the tomatoes into the pan and cook over a brisk flame for 15 minutes, mixing often. Turn off the flame and let the sauce cool.

Pat the slices of eggplant dry and broil them, turning them so both sides are golden.

Cook the pasta in abundant salted water until it reaches the firm al dente stage, and drain it. Combine it with the tomato sauce and 4 ounces of the grated ricotta and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 360º.

Take a round 8-inch high-sided pie plate, line it with oven paper, and then arrange the eggplant slices to cover the bottom and come up over the sides. Fill the eggplant "crust" with the pasta, fold the eggplant slices over the top of the pie, and use the remaining slices to form a top crust. Press down firmly with your finger tips to level the surface of the pie, drizzle the remaining oil over it, and bake the pie for 20 minutes.

Let the timballo cool, cover the top with aluminum foil, and keep it at room temperature until you plan to serve it (don't make it too far ahead). Turn it out onto a serving dish, and slice it, sprinkling the remaining shredded ricotta over it.

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