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Baked Ziti with Pork Ragù

You can roast the eggplant up to 1 day in advance. Store in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator. Select young eggplant with taut skin and even coloring.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. plus 2 Tbs. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 3 small eggplant, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 lb. ziti, penne or other tubular pasta
  • 2 cups pork ragù, homemade (see related recipe at left) or purchased
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Roast the eggplant
Preheat an oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, the 1/2 tsp. salt and the pepper. Arrange the eggplant chunks on the prepared sheets so they are not touching, and drizzle with the oil mixture. Roast until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.

Cook the pasta
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 Tbs. salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until still very al dente, about half of the timing on the package instructions. Drain and rinse under running cold water to stop the cooking; drain well again.

Assemble and bake the dish
In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, ragù, roasted eggplant and tomatoes. In a 9-by-12-by-2-inch or 1 1/2-qt. baking dish, spread half of the ragù mixture evenly over the bottom. Combine the 2 cheeses and sprinkle half the mixture over the ragù in the dish. Cover with the remaining ragù mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake until the surface is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes longer. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Pasta, by Julia della Croce (Oxmoor House, 2006).