Continuing with the series of lesser known pasta dishes this one probably rates amongst the more unhealthy and laboured plates of pasta you will make. But it is such a joy to eat and watch people’s faces light up upon cutting into this ‘drum’ that the extra work is well worth it. Besides it makes it dinner party material. My Italian flatmate and I served this to a table of Italians as part of a 5 course ‘fritto’ menu amongst olive all’ascolona, coniglio fritto and around 2 litres of oil – keeping things light.
I cooked this recipe from a picture I had seen but having researched a bit it appears there are hundreds of variations of Timballo (I should have guessed that with it being Italian) with fillings from rice to meat. The common theme being that it is baked, normally in a springform tin, however as you will see from my photo at the bottom, I tried to create individual portions by hand as I didn’t have the smaller tins. If you do, then you can save yourself the hassle of trying to create a leak-proof layer of fried aubergines, alternatively just make a large timballo and slice like a cake to serve!
There’s something so satisfying about making your own tomato sauce, not just in the rich taste but in filling the house with their aromas and making a big batch on the weekend can sort supplies out for months. I normally go along the lines of Marcella Harzan’s Sugo Fresco di Pomodoro – slow-cooked and kept simple. Paired with the ‘little ears’ that are Orecchiette to hold the sauce, some tender and crispy coated eggplant, each mouthful is amazing.
A beautiful insight into the art making Orrecchiete in Puglia (video by Tailored Media):
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/32028266″>La Signora delle Orecchiette</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/tailoredmedia”>Tailored Media</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I found it’s also important to really dry the aubergines out before the baking, so drain in between layers of paper towel to absorb residual oil for at least half an hour. That way they will stay nice and crisp throughout baking.
This is the most basic Timballo around so experiment and let me know the results!
Eggplant with Orecchiette al Pomodoro
serves 4 as individual starters
For the Eggplant
4 eggplants, sliced thinly lengthwise into around 7 slices
2 eggs beaten
250ml oil for frying
Place eggplant slices in a colander and salt well, rinsing them in fresh water after 20 minutes and then drying with paper towel.
Heat the oil to 180C. Dip the slices in the egg then in the breadcrumbs.
Fry until golden on each side and drain well on paper towel.
200g orecchiette pasta
200g tomato sauce
handful of basil leaves
3 tbsp parmesan, grated
1 ball of mozzarella, sliced
Oven to 160C
Cook the pasta al dente. Meanwhile heat the tomato sauce adding basil leaves just before mixing with the drained pasta.
Line the prepared eggplant slices how you wish, in a large baking tin or individual moulds. Divide the pasta equally, placing in the centre over the aubergines.
Wrap the eggplant ends around the pasta. Top with a slice of mozzarella and some grated parmesan then bake for 10 minutes until the mozzarella is melted. Remove from the tin onto a plate, garnishing with basil leaves.