Eggplant Timaballo with Tuscan kale salad
2 tablespoons olive oil 1 red onion, finely chopped 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped 1 celery stalk, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, chopped pinch of red pepper flakes 3 sprigs fresh basil salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 28 oz can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (or 2 cans of you want some leftover sauce…I certainly do!) 1 tablespoon butter, for greasing
2 eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices flour, for dredging vegetable oil, for frying
12-16 oz short pasta, such as short penne 1 4-6 oz ball mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes 3/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated 10 oz cooked frozen peas
Make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sweat the vegetables (avoid browning) for 7-8 minutes until soft and aromatic, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, with their juices, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, continually breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. (Alternatively, you can use kitchen sheers to cut the tomatoes while they are still in the can.) After the sauce simmers, use a food processor or an immersion blender (much easier) to buzz everything together until you have a smooth consistency.
Meanwhile, fry the eggplant. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour, tapping of the excess. Heat about 1/3 inch of oil in 1 or 2 large frying pans over high heat. Fry the eggplant slices in batches until golden, turning halfway through (tongs are a good tool to flip these guys over). Drain the eggplant slices on layers of paper towels to absorb the oil. Discard the oil in the pan after every 3 batches, or until you see burnt flour on the bottom, and then heat a new layer of oil again before cooking a fresh batch. As the eggplants finish frying, scatter them with a little salt.
Make the filling. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Drop in the pasta and cook until al dente. Important to undercook the pasta slightly, as it will continue to cook in the oven, which you can go ahead and preheat to 350°F. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add 3 cups or so of the tomato sauce, along with the mozzarella, parmesan, peas, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix together.
Assemble the timballo. Butter an ovenproof dish, bowl, or pan measuring 8-10 inches wide and about 2-3 inches deep. Line the edges of the greased pan with overlapping eggplant slices, allowing them to hang over the sides of the dish. Line the bottom with smaller eggplant slices. Pour in the pasta mixture and then lay over the remaining slices of eggplants in the center. Fold the eggplant slices around the edge into the center so that the pasta is completely enclosed and bake for 30-45 minutes, until the eggplant is well browned. Allow the timballo to set before serving, about 10 minutes.
Serve. To invert the timallo, hold a board or serving plate over the top of it and quickly invert. Serve cut into wedges with a Tuscan kale salad (recipe below).
Tuscan kale salad (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home)
2 bunches Tuscan (lacinato) kale, thick stems removed 2 garlic cloves, minced 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan large handful pine nuts (or sliced almonds), toasted
Shred the kale. Layer individual leaves in batches and slice very thinly crosswise to create shreds.
Prepare the dressing. Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Let stand at least 5 minutes (or up to 1 hour) to allow the garlic to permeate the dressing.
Assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, add the shredded kale and toss with the dressing and grated parmesan. Serve on salad plates (or simply alongside the timballo), topped with several toasted pine nuts.
WARM EGGPLANT, MUSHROOM AND KALE SALAD
A delicious warm eggplant, mushroom and kale salad with tangy goat cheese, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. It’s the perfect side dish for cold weather! (gluten-free, vegetarian)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
Category: salad, side dish