Have you noticed that I am on a Ciao Italia kick? Once again time watching PBS pays off, especially when the garden is producing tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant!
We had this recipe last week. The Bearded One does not generally like casseroles but he thought the recipe sounded good when we were watching the show. Sure enough it is delicious!
Ciao Italia Oven-Baked Ziti
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon Hot Red Pepper Pesto or 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes ( Iused the red pepper flakes but have since made the pesto which is great to have in the fridge and add to dishes to spice them up willy nilly)
2/3 cup dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
Good grinding coarse black pepper
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
One 28-ounce can ground plum tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes from the garden)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
1/2 cup coarsely chopped oil cured black olives
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 pound fresh mozzarella (fior di latte) cut into chunks
1/2 pound whole-wheat ziti ( used whole-wheat penne since I could not find the ziti locally)
Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large stovetop to oven casserole dish or sauté pan with cover. Stir in the onions and cook them over medium heat until they begin to soften. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic softens. Add the pepper paste or flakes and cook 1 minute longer.
Raise the heat to high; pour in 1/3 cup of the wine and allow most of it to evaporate. Scoop the onion mixture out of the pan and transfer it to a dish.
Pour in the remaining olive oil and add the eggplant; salt and pepper the pieces and cook covered, stirring occasionally until the eggplant begins to brown. Return the onion mixture to the pan.
In a bowl combine the tomatoes and the remaining wine; stir and add to the eggplant mixture. Stir in the basil or parsley and the olives. Lower the heat to simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Meanwhile cook the ziti in 2 quarts of boiling salted water for 5 minutes; they will cook further in the oven.
Drain the ziti and add to the eggplant mixture and toss well. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top and scatter the mozzarella over the top.
Cover and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until piping hot.