“There is no more comforting food in the world than a bubbly pasta dish straight from the oven,” says chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto in New York City. He replaces the béchamel in this traditional baked pasta with lush eggplant. To make the recipe even healthier, he suggests using whole-wheat pasta.
Slideshow: More Pasta Recipes
Recipe from Food & Wine Chefs' Easy Weeknight Dinners.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1 pound rigatoni
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium eggplants (2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch dice
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 beefsteak tomatoes (2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup prepared pesto
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof baking dish. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the rigatoni until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl. Toss the pasta with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add half of the eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant to the pasta. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of olive oil and the remaining eggplant.
Add the onion, garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have broken down and thickened to a sauce consistency, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the 4 tablespoons of butter.
Add the tomato sauce to the pasta and eggplant along with the pesto and ricotta; season with salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer the rigatoni to the prepared baking dish. Top with the mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano and bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. Let the pasta stand for 10 minutes before serving
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