Sunday, July 17, 2016

Melanzane Ripiene (Stuffed Eggplants)

I made some delicious bread crumbs out of some Nicoise Olive rolls leftover from Easter. You may use almost any leftover bread you like. I like to add my own additional herbs.  What a great way to make use of them.  These Italian Eggplants are smaller, sweeter and hold together quite nicely through the cooking process.  They are not bitter like the American eggplants sold commercially, so they are very easy to use in a number of dishes.  I had forgotten all about them in the back of the drawer, so they needed to be used.  I even had a small piece of Gorgonzola that was also leftover from the weekend. 

1 plus 1/2 pounds Italian eggplant (substitute Japanese Eggplants or zucchini if you like). 
2 cups bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of olive oil (plus extra to rub on the interior of your Baking dish)
Handful of fresh parsley, basil, diced fine
2 teaspoon garic diced
One egg
approx 1/2 pound of Gorgonzola
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef
All the interior of the Eggplants (you can use zucchini),  that you can manage to scoop out of each eggplant, creating a bowl or a boat for your stuffing
METHOD:  Heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Remove inside from your eggplants by inserting your knife along the rim of your Eggplants and carve.  Take care to leave the outside of the Eggplants intact.  They will be your boats that will hold your stuffing.  Place your  diced, eggplant pieces onto a baking sheet and mix with a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle of salt.  Place in oven for 25 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
 Place a large skillet on medium heat and add your garlic.  Saute until fragrant and add your ground beef.  Cook your beef and add your white wine.  Let your liquid evaporate away.  Pour the contents into a bowl to cool some. 
Special Note:  If you are using zucchini,  you can skip the oven part.   Due to the high water content of zucchini, you don't have to pre cook your boats.   They will cook well when stuffed. 

In a large bowl combine all your ingredients (except your Gorgonzola) and mix. You should have a good thick mixture consisting of your beef, eggplant interiors, herbs, salt, pepper, egg and breadcrumbs.  Mix well.  If your mixture seems to dry, add another egg, half at a time.  You want it somewhat dry.
With your hands, fill each eggplant boat with the mixture.  Do not worry about it falling over.  Place in an oiled baking dish (one tablespoon wiped across the base with a paper towel), in a line.  Cut your Gorgonzola and scatter the pieces across your dish.

 Cover the eggplants securely with foil  and cook in a preheated, 375 degree oven  for 50 minutes.  Uncover your eggplants at the 45 minute mark.  Let them continue to cook for 5 minutes in your oven. If they look like there is still some liquid in the pan, bake for 10 more minutes.   Remove and let cool. 
I served some peas as a side dish and sprinkled some right on top before serving.  Will easily serve 4-6 people.  It's quite filling. 
It can also be made ahead a few days.
Buon Appetito!

Special Note:  These Eggplants measured about 6 inches in length.  This version will not work with the larger American variety, Black beauty.  They will require the Eggplant shells to be precooked. I would not recommend them for this dish.
You may also use Fontina cheese if Gorgonzola is unavailable.  You can even add some Parmigiano and Mozzarella as a substitute for Gorgonzola.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Baked Pasta with Sausage and Mozzarella (Pasta al Forno version 2).

I never imagined years ago that I would ever see the day that my son  ( who is now 15), would ask for something other than pizza.  A fussy eater early on, and plagued with diet restrictions,  there was nothing I could do to get him to eat.  The best advice I have ever had in my life, came from a Pediatrician in Italy who said, "Have you ever seen a nine year old eating Baby food?"  I must admit,  I was puzzled at the moment.  Seemed a simple answer to a daily fight with one stubborn Italian boy.  One day, around the age of Nine he came flying down staircase, running into the kitchen trying to  figure out where that wonderful smell of sausage was coming from. He came around.  He said those words I will never forget and I waited so long to hear, "Mom, that smells delicious, can you make me some Pasta?"  Much to my initial shock, I just couldn't hold myself up.  Had to sit down and contemplate what had just happened.  After years, of constant arguing over food, it had all come to an end.  So I did what any person would do, I made pasta and never looked back.  This is Max's favorite.  I hope it's yours too.
Buon Appetito!
For the sauce.
2 cloves of garlic diced
3 tablespoons olive oil plus one tablespoon vegetable oil
12 oz of ground sausage (without casing/ chopped)
2 teaspoons of salt
one teaspoon of black pepper
One cup of white wine
14 oz can of diced tomato's
one cup of water
One teaspoon of salt (If you are using unsalted tomato's for your sauce)

In a saute pan large enough to hold your sauce,  heat your olive oil to medium and add your garlic.  When your garlic is fragrant,  add your sausage and brown.   After about 7-10 minutes on medium, your sausage will brown.   When your sausage is browned and about to stick to the bottom of your pan, add you white wine (one cup),  and let boil away.   This will take a few minutes until your liquid is all evaporated.  At this point add a 14oz can of diced tomato's, one cup of water, salt, pepper,  and let cook for approximately 15 minutes on medium low.  Mix while cooking and your liquid will evaporate by half.  At this point your pan should have a ring of oil around your sauce.  This indicates your sauce is ready!  In a separate pasta Pot, add your water and let boil.  Add your pasta and cook for approximately 6 minutes.  It is very important to under cook your pasta.  It will continue to cook while in the oven, so don't worry.
For the Baked Pasta:
8oz of fresh mozzarella chopped up
12 oz of Rigatoni Pasta
Salt for the pasta water
1 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Cook your pasta until Al dente.  Toss with 1/2 the sauce and pour into a baking dish. Add 1/2 your Parmigiano Cheese.  Add the rest of your Pasta.  Add your Mozzarella cheese across the top.  Add additional sauce if you like.  Add the rest of your Parmigiano Reggiano.  Cover securely and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Uncover and cook for 5 minutes more. 
Serve in deep Pasta Bowls.  Get ready for seconds!  Buon Appetito!