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Eggplant and Pasta Incaciata

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.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr 45 mins
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: Sicilian
Servings: 8 -12
Author: Hip Foodie Mom

Ingredients

RED SAUCE:

  • 1/4 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

EGGPLANT AND PASTA INCACIATA:

  • Softened unsalted butter for greasing pan
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano + more when serving
  • 1/2 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
  • 1/2 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

Instructions

For the red sauce:

  • 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:

  • Grease the bottom and insides of the springform pan with softened butter. Mix 1/4 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.
  • 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.
  • Meanwhile, peel the outer skin off the eggplant and using a mandolin slicer, slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4-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.
  • Combine the cooked pasta with the mozzarella and ragu sauce in a large bowl.

To assemble:

  • 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:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • 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)