Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Creamy Baked Noodles with Eggplant and Cheese

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The pasta smelled so good in the oven that we kept opening the oven door to check on it every 5 minutes. I spent the last 3 minutes standing in front of the oven, ready to chew my arm off from hunger. The taste? The eggplant was meaty and spicy; the cheese sauce was creamy and crispy on top; the tomato provided some freshness. I think we'll be making this one again pretty soon. The recipe is from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It's complicated, but well worth the extra time and effort.
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound of eggplant, cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 small pinches of red pepper flakes or Cayenne peppers
  • 2 cups of tomato, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 8 ounces of pasta (I used ziti)
  • 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs (I used Panko)
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of Parmesan, freshly grated
Saute eggplant in olive oil over medium high heat until edges are brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Add more oil to the pan, if needed, and saute onion and garlic until soft. Add cinnamon, cloves, red pepper flakes or Cayenne peppers, and tomato, cook until thickens, about 10 minutes. Return eggplant to the pan and stir. Set aside.

Cook pasta until just barely tender. Drain well and toss together with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs. Set aside. Use 1 tablespoon of melted butter to grease a small casserole.

Heat milk in microwave until small bubbles appear. Heat the melted butter in a sauce pan over medium low heat. Add flour while whisking until the mixture turns golden. Add milk slowly, whisk constantly and cook until thickens. Stir the sauce into beaten eggs a couple of tablespoons at a time while whisking. Pour the egg back into the sauce and stir. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Layer half of the pasta in the baking dish, top with half the eggplant mixture. Cover with the remaining pasta, then the remaining eggplant and all the cheese sauce. Top with remaining bread crumbs and extra grated Parmesan, if desired. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. To make the top crispy and golden brown, I also put it under a broiler for 3 minutes.

Did I mention this was ridiculously good? I had seconds and thought about more. Alas, my stomach was not big enough. Sigh.

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