Baked pasta with aubergine – Timballo di maccheroni

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Timballo di maccheroni is a popular dish at Christmas because it is so easy to prepare in advance. Many families will prepare one first thing Christmas Day morning and then leave it to roast while they are at church. It is the perfect dish for sharing given its cake-like shape – everyone grabs a slice.

Serves 4–6

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 aubergines, preferably the round, pale violet ones
  • sea salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter for greasing
  • 5 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g rigatoni or penne rigate
  • 60g caciocavallo or pecorino cheese, sliced

METHOD

Cut the aubergines into thin slices, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander for at least 2 hours. Squeeze lightly to get rid of the excess liquid.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease a round cake tin size roughly (25cm diameter approx) or tart tin, about 3-4cm deep, then put in 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs and shake and turn the dish so that the breadcrumbs cling to the butter and line the dish.

Heat about 6mm of olive oil in a deep frying pan and sauté the aubergine slices in batches until lightly coloured. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper, then, using about three-quarters of the aubergines, overlap the slices over the base and around the sides of the greased and breadcrumbed tin.

In a pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil, put in the onion and garlic and cook until soft but not coloured. Add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt; cover with a lid, and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add salt, then put in the pasta and cook for about 3 minutes less than the time given on the packet, so that it is al dente. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Spoon a layer of pasta into the aubergine-lined tin, followed by some of the tomato sauce, a layer of the remaining aubergine and a layer of grated cheese. Repeat, finishing with a layer of aubergine, followed by the rest of the breadcrumbs. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until golden.

Leave to stand for about 10 minutes to firm up, then put a plate over the top of the tin, hold both the plate and the tin firmly, and turn both over together, so that the timballo turns out on to the plate. Serve cut in wedges.

Recipe extracted from Giorgio Locatelli’s ‘Made in Sicily’, published by 4th Estate.

For more on multi-cultural festivals and recipes , check out Good Things magazine’s The ultimate cross-cultural festive feasts.
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