Baked Ziti with Eggplant and Smoked Scamorza
When making this vegetarian recipe it’s worth seeking out smoked scarmorza, an Italian cow’s milk cheese that is traditionally made in Puglia and Calabria, but smoked mozzarella can be substituted in a pinch.
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. (500 g) eggplant, peeled and diced
- 1/2 lb. (250 g) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 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 (1/2 lb./250 g) shredded smoked scamorza cheese
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) grated Parmesan cheese
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.
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. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. Carefully pour the tomatoes into the pan; 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 thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Cover the sauce to keep warm and set aside.
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.
Preheat an oven to 400°F (200°C). Coat a large baking dish with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil.
Spoon the pasta into the dish. Top with the remaining sauce and the Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Serve hot. Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011)