I often don’t think of posting pasta recipes. My previous statement might seem a little strange coming from an Italian food blogger, but as I am sure other Italian cooks will agree, pasta dishes tend to become a little habitual for people of our ethnicity.
Though the list of exotic fresh ingredients I keep in my fridge waxes and wanes depending on how often I get to the fruit market and what recipes I have on the horizon, there are some pantry staples that are always in constant supply – italian sausage, dried pasta, onions, chilli oil, garlic and continental parsley. I’m sure these ‘staples’ may not be termed as such in your household, but growing up with them being a constant supply in the family home, leads one to some compulsive perpetual re-stocking. These ‘staples’ coupled with the handful of fresh ingredients that might be left at the end of a work week make a cracking pasta when you can’t be bothered shopping.
This is not one of those throw together pastas.
This is a pasta dish worth sharing.
This is a beef mince pasta wrapped in grilled eggplant and more pasta that is baked in a bowl.
This might seem like a crazy idea, but it is the perfect pasta to showcase Italian showmanship.
I bring you… the Pasta Timballo.
Retaining the traditional simplicity of rustic Italian flavours, this is a pasta dish that is anything but simple in its presentation. I have always had a penchant for baked pasta dishes and this is definitely the pinnacle, intended to be the crowning jewel at a feast or celebration. Its a dish that can be prepared the day before, ready to pop in the oven just as guests arrive only to continue baking away while you mingle, unveiled less than an hour later causing a murmur amongst guests and signalling that you are a miracle worker in the kitchen.
Effortless in its impressiveness and a relatively simple concept when you boil it down. It is most definitely worth the extra time taken to put it all together.
- Olive Oil Spray
- 1 large eggplant, thinly sliced longways (I used a mandolin)
- 10 fresh lasagna sheets
- Large handful fresh basil
- 500g dried 'ditaloni rigate' pasta*
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 500g beef mince
- 8 button mushrooms, sliced
- 490g pasta sauce
- 1/3 cup continental parsley, finely chopped
- 100g English spinach, roughly chopped
- 150g mozzarella, in 1cm cubes
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat a griddle over medium high heat. Spray with olive oil and cook the eggplant slices in batches grilling each side until char marks form and the eggplant has softened. Set aside.
Spray a large metal bowl with olive oil. Taking 8 of the fresh lasagna sheets layer them one by one over the base of the bowl, slightly overlapping each other and leaving an overhang from the edge of the bowl. Set aside the remaining two sheets for the top. Line the pasta sheets with a layer of grilled eggplant (reserving a few pieces for the top) and then a layer of basil.
Add the dried pasta to a large pot of salted boiling water and cook for the time listed on the packet (I cooked mine for 7 minutes)
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frypan over medium high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add beef mince and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon for 4 minutes or until browned. Then add mushrooms and cook for another two minutes. Finally add the pasta sauce and parsley and cook, stirring, till heated through then remove from heat.
Drain the pasta and add to the frypan with the mozarella and the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir till pasta is well coated with the sauce and season to taste. Add the pasta carefully to the inside of the layered pasta and eggplant (see image above). Top with the remaining slices of eggplant and the last pasta slices, then fold the overhanging pasta back over the top. Spray with olive oil, cover with alfoil and place in the fridge till you are ready to cook.
Preheat oven to 200° Celsius. Transfer the timballo to the oven and bake for 40 minutes until it is piping hot and the edges are golden. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Gently turn out onto a dish and serve.