Channeling My Inner Italian with Eggplant and Pasta Incaciata


I don’t watch very much TV. But when I do, it’s either on the treadmill or at night, right before bed.  And at night, right before bed, is usually when I’m watching the Cooking Channel.  .  which really makes no sense at all because I get crazy hungry and always want to head straight for the kitchen to get something to eat at midnight. But I never do. I go to bed hungry. So sad.


And then I dream about food.


But I guess that might not be a bad thing. Because it then challenges me to make dishes like this one. Eggplant and Pasta Incaciata. If I didn’t actually see this one on Extra Virgin and saw that this recipe is actually not terribly difficult (just really really time consuming), I probably would never have thought to make this.


But I am so so glad that I did. This was absolutely delicious. The eggplant with the pasta and ragu sauce is wonderful and so flavorful. I thought I might need to add some of the leftover red sauce when I ate this but it didn’t need anything. It was delicious. One of the best dishes I have made so far.


This Sicilian specialty, called Pasta Incaciata, is a lovely baked pasta dish made with layered eggplant and stuffed with pasta, ground veal, pork or beef, a tomato sauce or ragu and cheese. The Italian word timballo comes from an Arabic word meaning ‘drum’ — the dish is cooked in a round drum-like vessel, which, in this case, is a springform pan. Basically it’s an eggplant and cheese “cake” that will seriously rock your world.


The next time I have out-of-town guests over, this is what I am making.  If you like eggplant and pasta, I highly highly recommend this recipe. You will not be disappointed.


I hope you enjoy!








Eggplant and Pasta Incaciata
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


A springform pan is highly recommended for this recipe. NOTE: 1) Please note the refrigeration time: a few hours or overnight. 2) You will have a good amount of pasta leftover. Even the pasta with the ragu by itself is delicious. Our kids ate this.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Sicilian
Serves: 8-12

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional for some heat)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Large handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Softened unsalted butter, for greasing pan
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano + more when serving
  • ½ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or pork
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, cut into 3 chunks each
  • ½ cup red wine, preferably Chianti
  • 2 medium eggplant
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked to al dente
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
Special equipment:
  • One 9-inch springform pan at least 3 inches high
  • Mandolin slicer

For the red sauce:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and onions and saute until tender, 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes if using and some salt and black pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir the basil leaves into the sauce at the end of simmering.
For the eggplant and pasta incaciata:
  1. Grease the bottom and insides of the springform pan with softened butter. Mix ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano cheese. Coat the inside of the pan well with the cheese mixture. Knock out any excess and discard.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and sprinkle with salt and black pepper and saute until cooked through. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the red wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of the red sauce and bring back to a simmer. Cook for another 5 minutes and season with salt and black pepper. Reserve the remaining red sauce for another use.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the outer skin off the eggplant and using a mandolin slicer, slice the eggplants lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick planks. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and black pepper and fry in a single layer, working in batches, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, using 3 tablespoons of oil per batch. You want to end up with enough eggplant planks to cover the bottom of the pan, the edges and the top of your Incaciata. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet.
  4. Combine the cooked pasta with the mozzarella and ragu sauce in a large bowl.
To assemble:
  1. Line the bottom of the prepared springform pan with a single layer of eggplant, then line the sides with the eggplant planks vertically, allowing the excess to hang over the outside of the pan. Fill the inside of the lined pan with the pasta mixture, pressing down gently. Fold the flaps of eggplant over the top of the pasta, using any remaining eggplant slices to cover the top. Don’t worry if you run out of eggplant planks, you can use your leftover breadcrumb mixture to cover the top later. Cover with plastic wrap and weigh it down with a plate. Refrigerate for a few hours or up to overnight.
When ready to bake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmigiano and breadcrumbs mixture. Cover the top loosely with foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until bubbling and the top is golden brown, an additional 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes and cool slightly before unmolding from the pan. This is very important that you allow the Incaciata to cool slightly before unmolding. Slice, serve and enjoy! (You can serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top and the leftover sauce if desired)


Recipe adapted from Extra Virgin.


I usually don’t photograph step-by-step photos but I wanted to show you guys how to assemble the Incaciata. .



Some of my eggplant planks were thin and smaller so – in order to use everything and cover the bottom of my pan, I did this. It’s not pretty but it worked. I was trying to find the Extra Virgin episode online to watch it again before I made this but could not find it. I think Gabriele also layered his Incaciata with some of the eggplant planks in the middle. So, he added more eggplant on top of this pasta and then did another layer of pasta but I did not have enough eggplant to do this AND I wanted to ensure all the pasta would stay in tact when I sliced it.




I ran out of eggplant planks so I covered the top with my leftover breadcrumb and Parmigiano-Reggiano mixture. Worked out lovely!






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19 Responses to "Channeling My Inner Italian with Eggplant and Pasta Incaciata"

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  1. REMCooks

    January 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I love dishes like this. They are so pretty and taste so incredibly good. Now, inasmuch as I don’t know, what is the difference between melenzane incaciato and timballo? A timballo also is an eggplant crusted pasta dish. I’m sure there is a difference but now I’m curious what it is.

    • hipfoodiemom

      January 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you, Richard! From what I can tell (I had to google this), maybe the main difference is the assembly and look of the dish? Melanzane incaciato is an Eggplant Parmigiana and Timballo is an Italian dish consisting of baked pasta . . but again, you form the drum or cake in the springform pan. For Melanzane incaciato, you don’t need a springform pan, just a regular casserole dish.

  2. Liz

    January 26, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Wow, I going to channel my inner Italian, too! What an extraordinary dish!!! YUM.

    PS…yes, the shrimp and cellophane noodles were from AMFT…I was one of the few that liked this one.

    • hipfoodiemom

      January 27, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Thank you, Liz! And yes, I found the recipe in the cookbook last night! :) Thank you!

  3. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    January 27, 2013 at 3:53 am

    I pinned this before reading the recipe. SO my kind of dish! Eggplant is one of my favorite foods, seriously I can eat it every day. And italian food has a place in my heart. This is my next kitchen project!

    • hipfoodiemom

      January 27, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Thank you, Paula! I hope you do make it. . it’s soooo delicious!! :)

  4. Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough

    January 27, 2013 at 7:40 am

    I’ve never heard of an incaciata before but from the looks of it, I wish I had sooner! YUM.

    • hipfoodiemom

      January 27, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Thank you, Stephanie! I had never heard of it either until I watched that episode of Extra Virgin on the Cooking Channel. If you like Italian food, you need to try this one.

  5. Brandi @

    January 27, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Never seen or heard of this but it’s pretty flippin fantastic! Leave it to you to make it look beautiful! Wow! It’s an amazing looking dish!

    • hipfoodiemom

      January 28, 2013 at 7:16 am

      Thank you so much, Brandi! Reading your comments always make me smile! You are too kind!

  6. YinMom YangMom Allie

    January 28, 2013 at 10:35 am

    that looks absolutely magnificent, alice! way to go girl!

  7. Natalie

    January 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    What a beautiful dish! I love new recipes with eggplant!

  8. Linda | The Urban Mrs

    January 28, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Yum! Definitely a work of art, something to enjoy while you’re making it. I can’t imagine how flavorful it must be in each layer.

  9. Pingback: Helping Eggplant Make a Comeback with an Eggplant Caprese Sandwich!Hip Foodie Mom | Hip Foodie Mom

  10. Jonathan

    March 25, 2013 at 5:12 am

    Wow, I just watched this being made on Extra Virgin and I can’t wait to make it. Your dish came out beautiful.

    • hipfoodiemom

      March 25, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      Thank you, Jonathan! It’s delicious! Let me know how yours turns out! :)

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  12. Deborah M.

    May 5, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I just made this yesterday, left it in the fridge overnight and baked it today. A couple of things I learned from this. I think Gabrielle’s eggplants were thicker than mine, I did mine by hand and baked them with a drizzle of olive oil on a covered sheet pan in the oven, saves some work and less greasy (I overcooked mine, but they softened back up again in the fridge. Also on the show he bakes it at 375 degrees (recipe says 350), one of the reasons I prefer to watch it first. I think the higher temp was definitely needed after being in the fridge all night. I made mine with ground beef because that is what I had in the freezer, next time I will try the pork. But you were right, it wasn’t as hard as the finished product looked. It made me (who doesn’t like cooking and is not very good at it) look like a pro. I also will be making this again for a special occasion with guests.

    • hipfoodiemom

      May 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Deborah,
      Thanks so much for the comment! Yes, you are right! Even the recipe on says 350 degrees. . next time I bake this, I will definitely try the higher temp! I’m so glad you had success with the recipe! Cheers!


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