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Oven-baked pasta with eggplant and tomatoes A simple dish but full of flavor, with the main ingredients of the Mediterranean diet by Dario Ersetti
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Oven-backed pasta with eggplant and tomatoes. Photo by Dario Ersetti

Once upon a time, girls of a marrying age used to go to church of a Sunday not only to worship, but also, since they were already there, to look for a husband. The women who had not managed it in time clung to their faith but ended up staying at home to dedicate themselves to cooking the Sunday lunch. As they didn’t have much experience they were relegated to the humblest of tasks like peeling potatoes or breaking up the pasta, which in their honor was named “ziti”, maybe referring to their condition of spinsters, or maybe to wish them luck in finding a “zito” (fiancé).

Baked pasta is usually a triumph of ingredients: little meatballs, cheeses and cold cuts, while this recipe is very simple and contains few ingredients. In this way, the two fundamental ingredients, eggplant and tomatoes, are given prominence.

 

The recipe

 

  Ingredients:

- 700 g of eggplant

- 1 kg of ripe tomatoes

- 300 g of fragmented “ziti”

- 3 cloves of garlic

- a few basil leaves

- 100 g of grated grana cheese

- salt

- 1 glass of extra-virgin olive oil

- oil for frying.

 

Dice the eggplant and 700 g. of tomatoes into cubes of 2 cm. Fry the eggplant in plenty of boiling oil and, in a wide pan, cook the tomatoes gently in a few spoonsful of oil with a clove of crushed garlic and then salt them. After about a quarter of an hour the eggplant will be a lovely golden color and the tomato will be less liquid; drain the eggplant and mix it with the tomato, stir and take off the heat.

In the meantime chop up the remaining 300 g. of tomatoes, and in a small pan make a quick sauce with a little oil, a small clove of crushed garlic, a few basil leaves and a pinch of salt, and leave to boil for five minutes.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for one minute less than the number of minutes indicated on the packet and drain but not too well. Put it back in the pan, dress it with the tomato sauce and with 50g. of cheese and after stirring throw in the eggplant and the tomatoes.  

Place it all in an oiled oven dish, sprinkle it with cheese and place in the oven at 180° for twenty minutes.

To achieve a less rustic dish, instead of the “ziti”, you could use lasagna, which should be placed in the dish in layers, alternating with the eggplant, although the tomato and eggplant cooked like this are absolutely delicious even on their own and can be served just with a slice of super-fine bread.

A final word of advice: breaking up the “ziti” is tiring and hard on the hands; it’s a good idea to use a pair of scissors the wrong way, that is, by the jaws (see picture). Anyway, your sacrifices will be rewarded by the goodness of this dish.

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