Serve this wow-factor pasta "cake" for dinner.
Butter, softened, for greasing the pan
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp dried bread crumbs
4 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for topping
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed for frying
1 lb ground pork
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup red wine, such as Chianti
4 cups red sauce
1 lb ziti or penne
2 medium eggplants, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick planks
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded, plus more for sprinkling
Step 1: Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" springform pan with softened butter. In a small bowl, combine the 1⁄4 cup bread crumbs with 2 tbsp of the parmesan. Use the mixture to evenly coat the insides of the springform. Shake out whatever doesn't adhere to the butter and discard.
Step 2: In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the ground pork and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
Step 3: Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the red wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the red sauce, bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes to blend the flavours. Season the meat sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 4: In an 8 - 12-quart pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and use a wooden fork to stir the pasta so it won't stick together. Cook until al dente. Drain, then set aside in a large bowl.
Step 5: Meanwhile, season the eggplants with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the eggplant in batches of 7 or 8 slices, cooking about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Replenish the pan with 2 more tbsp of olive oil before each new batch. Drain the eggplant on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
Step 6: Add the mozzarella and sauce to the bowl with the cooked pasta.
Step 7: To assemble, line the bottom of the prepared springform pan with a single layer of eggplant, then line the sides vertically with the eggplant so each "plank" hangs over the outside. Fill the inside of the 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. Cover with plastic wrap and weigh it down with a plate. Refrigerate the pan for 3 - 4 hours, or even overnight.
Step 8: Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Step 9: Remove the plastic and sprinkle mozzarella, the remaining 1 tbsp parmesan, and the remaining 2 tbsp bread crumbs over the top. Cover loosely with foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes.
Step 10: Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 - 20 minutes, so it can cool slightly. Open the pan's latch and gently remove the pasta cake from the pan. Slice and serve.
See more recipes from Extra Virgin.
Reprinted with permission from Extra Virgin (2014, Random House Canada).