Pasta al forno, literally “pasta from the oven,” is a versatile dish that works well with many different cheeses and vegetables, making this a great meatless Monday to make from odds and ends in your refrigerator. Garnish with additional torn basil leaves for an extra-aromatic finish.
Baked Ziti with Eggplant and Smoked Scamorza
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. (500 g) eggplant, peeled (optional) and cubed
- 8 oz. (250 g) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed but left whole
- 5 cups (35 oz./1.1 kg) canned diced tomatoes
- 5 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- 1 lb. (500 g) dried ziti, penne or other short, sturdy pasta
- 2 cups (8 oz./250 g) shredded smoked scamorza cheese
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the olive oil. Add the eggplant and mushrooms and stir to coat with the oil. Sprinkle in 3/4 tsp. salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are tender and browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover to keep warm and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine 3 Tbs. of the remaining olive oil and the garlic and warm until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Press the garlic with the back of a wooden spoon to release its aroma. Do not let it brown or it will become bitter. Slowly pour the tomatoes into the pan. Be careful, because the oil and juice will spatter. Stir in 3/4 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until nicely thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Cover the sauce to keep warm and set aside.
3. While the vegetables and tomato sauce are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ziti and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes or according to the package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) of the cooking water, then return to the pot. Add the eggplant and mushrooms, about two-thirds of the sauce and the scamorza and toss gently but thoroughly. Add a splash or two of the pasta-cooking water to loosen the sauce, if needed.
4. Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C). Coat a large baking dish with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil.
5. Spoon the dressed pasta into the dish. Top with the remaining sauce and the Parmigiano. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Serve hot. Serves 8.
Find more recipes like this one in our enticing collection of authentic dishes made modern, Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti.