Eggplant Baked With Passata & Pesto – Served With Lemon Flavoured Pasta!

Robin Boyle Dinner, Italian, Main course, Vegetables

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Our Canadian friend, Roger, was staying with us for several days in Melbourne. He offered to cook for us one night and thus produced this delicious and very easy version of baked eggplant, a variation on parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant baked with Parmesan cheese). He served it with lemon flavoured pasta, which was a perfect foil for the richness of the eggplant.

Following are the basic recipes for the eggplant and the lemon pasta , however, they allow for lots of variations and personal touches. Halve or double the ingredients as required.

Baked Eggplant

The ingredients include ready made tomato passata and pesto sauce; good quality store bought versions should work well. Instead of passata, you could use your own favourite tomato sauce or puree, or use a tin of crushed tomatoes. (If you don’t have pesto on hand, you could use a mixture of plenty of chopped fresh basil and crushed garlic, drizzled with oil.) For the cheese slices, use what you think will give a flavoursome result, such as cheddar – you can use mozzarella, but the end result might not be so tasty; make sure the cheese you use is one that will melt.

Ingredients for three or four people
  • olive oil
  • two medium eggplants
  • 250 to 300 ml passata or equivalent tomato sauce or puree
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves chopped or 1 tsp dried oregano
  • six slices of tasty cheese, or equivalent in grated cheese
  • ½ cup pesto sauce
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • fresh basil leaves or chopped parsley
Method

Set the oven to 190oC.

Use a baking dish 24 cm x 30 cm or an equivalent size oven-proof dish that can take the six slices of eggplant. Smear the sides and bottom with olive oil (or use an olive oil spray).

Cut a thin slice off each side of the eggplants so that the outer slices lie flat in the dish. Then cut each eggplant into three equally thick slices. (Trim off the ends if necessary to fit them in the dish; use them and the thin slices from the edges to fill gaps, or use them for another purpose.) Place the slices neatly into the bottom of the dish, sliced side up.

Spread the passata over the top of each eggplant slice, but try not to let any or much run down the sides. Scatter with the oregano.

Cover the tomato with the tasty cheese, again keeping it within the bounds of each slice of eggplant.

Spread or spoon the pesto over the cheese slices. Sprinkle over some Parmesan, top with basil or parsley. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the eggplant has clearly softened.

Serve hot with lemon flavoured pasta (recipe below) or fresh crusty bread and a green salad. Serves three or four as a main course or six as an entree.

Degree of difficulty: 2/5 (Not difficult)

Lemon Flavoured Pasta

Use whatever pasta you wish, such as spaghetti, tagliatelle, rigatoni or spirali; fresh or dried. Aim for a subtle lemon flavour. Serve it as is with the baked eggplant (above). However, if you wish to make it a pasta dish in its own right, consider adding some cream and/or Parmesan.

Ingredients for three or four people
  • pasta of choice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 large lemon finely grated and juiced
  • salt and pepper

Cook the pasta as per normal. In the meantime, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan big enough to take the pasta. A few minutes before the pasta is ready, gently fry the garlic so it is heated through but not burnt.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the frying pan. Toss, add the lemon zest and some lemon juice to taste and salt and pepper; add more lemon juice as required to obtain a distinctive citrus flavour. Ensure the pasta is coated with the lemon flavoured sauce.

Serve immediately.

Degree of difficulty: 1/5 (Very easy)