This is another of one of those WOW moments in our culinary journey.
Most of my professional training/experience came in the arena of French/Bavarian/Western European cuisine. I guess that is why I love sauces so much. Of course, in the early 1970s Texas was not nearly so diverse as it is in 2012. Restaurant choices were limited. Availability of imported foods were limited and seasonal, if you could get them at all. Oddly, it was when I left the culinary arts that i began to experience much more diverse ideas and food. Part of that came from traveling and living in Louisiana. Part of it was the result of the expansion of air cargo and availability of quality imported foods. Part of it was the diversification of the population of Texas. More importantly, because I was no longer “in the business” I was not stuck in a restaurant concept and menu. As such, I began to explore and expand my culinary technique and style to suit my palate and satisfy my curiosity. As such my cooking has continually evolved over the last 25+ years and I love trying new and challenging things.
The inspiration for this dish comes from Aprons and Sneakers, Baked Anelletti in Aubergine Crust. Over the course of time I had seen various baked pasta in crust dishes and was familiar with timbales but never before had I seen such a beautiful dish as the Baked Anelletti in Aubergine Crust. It made me drool and I had to try it. So I did with my own modifications inasmuch as Baby Lady doesn’t eat ground beef or sausage. Instead, I modified Campanelle with Eggplant, Olives and Feta Cheese and used it for the sauce for the filling. I also used Cavatappi pasta (similar to macaroni). This was the result and it was absolutely delicious. If you get a chance, give this recipe a try. If you want to use a meat sauce instead, go ahead. Make it your way but make it. Thanks to Rowena at Aprons and Sneakers for inspiring me on my culinary journey. This meal is wonderful!
For the Filling
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 pound red bell peppers, diced
- 1/2 large white onion, diced
- 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1 Aubergine eggplant (1 1/4 pound), unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 lb Cavatappi pasta
- 8 ounces feta cheese (preferably Greek feta if you can find it), crumbled
For The Crust
- 2 Aubergine Eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 Tbsp Breadcrumbs
- 4 Tbsp good quality olive oil
For the filling
Heat 6 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, garlic and crushed pepper and sauté 3 minutes.
Add eggplant and oregano.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; cook until eggplant softens, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Mix in tomatoes with juices, 1 cup basil, olives, tomato paste and vinegar.
Cover; simmer until all vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite; drain well. Stir pasta into vegetable mixture.
Remove from heat and add feta cheese
Stir to incorporate and set aside.
For the crust
Peel and slice 2 large Eggplants into 1/4 inch slices. Lightly oil and season with salt. Grill and set aside to cool.
Oil a 5-1/2 inch x 2-1/2 inch baking dish and dust with bread crumbs.
Line the baking dish with the grilled eggplant slices. Start by taking eggplant slices and running horizontally (longitudinally) around the perimeter of baking dish.
Next, starting at the center of the dish, lay eggplant slices vertically (latitudinally) so that the strips hang over the top edge of the dish.
Fill the baking dish with the cavatappi filling
Fold the slices over the top
Place baking dish in a 350 F oven and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven. Invert in the center of a serving dish. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and brown. Garnish with basil. Serve and enjoy.