This delicious Italian recipe is a proper dinner party or special occasion centre piece. It looks amazing as well as tasting fantastic. It’s not the quickest of my recipes but it’s really worth the effort. You can serve it after anti pasti with a salad and it’s a bit like a pie version of Pasta Alla Norma, so if you like that you will love this.
Recipe serves 5-6
you will need a 20cm springform cake tin that is brushed with oil (I put a silicone sheet circle on the bottom just to be on the safe side)
4 aubergines (egg plants)
200g of rigatoni
2 mozzarella balls(drained and grated) or vegetarian cheese
parmesan for grating on later
The tomato sauce
2x 400g tins of tomatoes puréed in a blender or with a stick blender)
a big glug of olive oil
6 cloves of garlic very finely sliced
2 tsps of chilli flakes (it’s quite spicy, put in less if you don’t like it spicy)
2 tsp of maple syrup
1 tsp of salt or to taste
a bunch of basil
Cut the top and bottom of of the aubergines and slice lengthwise into 1/4 in thick slices, discard the slices at the sides with a lot of skin on. In a large frying pan and in batches, fry the slices till they are soft and golden and drain on a clean tea towel and set aside.
Make the tomato sauce by adding some olive to a big pan and on a medium heat cook the garlic slices till transparent (don’t burn them) then add the chilli flakes. Add the puréed tomatoes, salt, maple syrup and about 25 basil leaves. Simmer gently for about half an hour without a lid on, the sauce become thicker and not watery. Check if it needs more salt.
Meanwhile cook the rigatoni in salted water till seriously al dente, about four minutes away from al dente, this is important as it continues to cook when it’s baked. It should be a few minutes away from being cooked through. Drain and put back in the pan and pour the tomato sauce over it and add the mozzarella, some more basil and stir through and preheat the oven to 350f or 175c.
Now create the pie by lining the bottom and sides of the springform tin with the fried aubergines, the side ones should be standing up straight and overlapping so there are no gaps, you are creating the outer shell of the pie and the excess aubergine should be hanging over the sides. Fill this with the pasta, pressing it down gently to make sure there are no air pockets. Flip the aubergines that are hanging down the sides over to cover the pasta and fill in any gaps with the remaining aubergine slices so there’s no gaps on top.
Place the tin on a baking tray as it will leak a bit and bake for half an hour and then let it rest for at least ten minutes so it’s not too messy when you cut into it.
When it’s finished baking, run a knife round the edge to loosen it (a bit like a cake). Place a plate on top of the pie and turn it over. Remove the tin and slice like a cake. Serve with gratings of parmesan and some more basil leaves. I also love the left overs at room temperature the next day.