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Sicilian Macaroni Timballo Recipe - Timballo di Maccheroni alla Siciliana

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This Sicilian macaroni timballo is a lighter, meatless version of a Sicilian classic -- baked pasta with eggplant. The preparation time is about 2 hours (much is letting the eggplant sit), and cooking time an hour. To serve 5-6:

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound rigatoni (ridged pasta similar to ziti but larger)
  • 1 1/4 pounds eggplant
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 pounds sun-ripened plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1/4 pound fresh caciocavallo or mild provolone cheese
  • Oil for frying

Preparation:

Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices, salt them, and let them sit in a colander for an hour. While they're sitting prepare the tomatoes, dice the cheese, and mince the onion, garlic and basil.

Sauté the minced onion and the garlic in 1/4 cup butter until the onion begins to brown, then stir in the tomatoes, season with salt, and cook for about a half hour, or until much of the liquid has evaporated. At the last minute, stir in the minced basil, then remove the sauce from the fire and let it cool.

Heat the oil, and bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Rinse the sliced eggplant, pat the slices dry, and fry them in the oil, a few slices at a time. Drain them on absorbent paper and keep them warm. While you're frying the eggplant, cook the pasta until it's quite al dente, drain it, and season it with a few tablespoons of the sauce.

Once you have assembled the ingredients, oil a container large enough to hold them and preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C). Lay down a first layer of pasta, then a layer of eggplant and diced cheese, and some sauce. Continue layering until all is used up, and dot the surface of the timbale with the remaining butter.

Heat through for about a half hour, and serve. It's also quite good warm.

As a variation, you can use a mixture of equal parts zucchini and eggplant.

I'd go with a white wine, for example a Fiano di Avellino, here, or perhaps a zesty red, along the lines of an Aglianico del Vulture, though not a riserva.

Yield: 5-6 servings Sicilian macaroni timballo.

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