I know this looks like Lasagna but it is actually Eggplant Pasticcio. The recipe is in my Cookbook on page 108 and is listed as a side dish but at my brother-in-law’s restaurant (Ristorante Pastore) on Thursday’s it was the lunch special. It was served with a house salad and some warm Italian bread …..that’s it!!! Poor Uncle Paolo (The Chef) had to make this recipe and double and finally triple the amount because it sold out every week. It got to the point that people would call to pre-order this dish Thursday mornings to make sure they got their portion!!
The recipe is quite laborious but not for someone who loves to cook. The components can be made ahead of time to make it a little easier. For instance the Tomato sauce can be made weeks ahead and frozen. Also you can grate the Pecorino Romano cheese and the Mozzarella cheese a couple of days ahead, too. The eggplant can be peeled, sliced, salted and placed in a colander sitting in a bowl in the fridge overnight. All that’s left to do is batter and fry the eggplant and make a quick Bechamel sauce, and assemble the casserole!
The recipe for the basic sauce or what most people call a Marinara sauce is on page 86. The recipe makes a lot of sauce and can easily be cut in half, but why would you???? It freezes beautifully and you will have it for so many other dishes!!
Paolo’s Basic (Marinara) Tomato Sauce
6 large cans (28 oz.) whole Italian Plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands or in a blender
15-20 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
2 large onions, chopped
6 tabsp. olive oil
1 teasp. salt
1/2 teasp. black pepper ( I use lemon-pepper)
2 bay leaves
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teasp. dried oregano (optional)
2 cups water (use this to rinse out the tomato cans and add to the sauce)
In a large 6 qt. Dutch Oven…Saute the chopped onions and garlic in the olive oil (over medium low heat) until softened and onions are transparent. Add all remaining ingredients. Simmer over a low heat for at least 2 hours.
Thin Bechamel Sauce…and I stress thin. The recipe in my book is for a standard, thick Bechamel but for this dish, this is the one you will need:
Thin Basic Bechamel Sauce
2 cups Whole milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 heaping Tablespoons all purpose flour
salt & pepper to taste (yes, I use black pepper but you can use white if you prefer)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (must be fresh)
Place milk in a saucepan and heat just to the boiling point; remove from heat. In another saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour; cook 3 minutes over low heat. Using a wire whisk, stir in strained milk; add nutmeg and salt. Cook over medium low heat about 5-8 minutes until slightly thickened. Add pepper to taste. If sauce becomes too thick, stir in a little extra milk.
Yields approx 2 1/2 cups sauce for this recipe.