Tagliatelle casseroles with Aubergines and Mozzarella

Intro

My mum suggested me this recipe when I was actually much more interested in my new mini Le Creuset casseroles than in their future content. These four beauties are her lovely gift for my birthday…which I obviously wanted to experiment straight away.

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This is a slightly more laborious recipe than the previously published ones but the result is too good and too pretty not to attempt. You can either opt for a vegetarian version or for a meaty choice. Also, this can be served either as a starter or as what Italians would call ‘first entrée’ or ‘primo piatto’ – the dish after a starter and before a second entrée of meat or fish.

Ingredients for four:
Important tools: four mini casseroles or you can choose to use a bigger one and then serve the pasta in separate plates.

200 gr tagliatelle
125 gr mozzarella
A handful of grated parmiggiano
100 gr smoked bacon cubes (for the meat option)
1 big aubergine
1 can of passata/cherry tomatoes/plum tomatoes
A quarter of onion
Few basil leaves
Frying oil
Olive oil
Coarse and table salt
Pepper

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

Fry the aubergine

Thinly slice the aubergine following its length. Ideally you should get three or four slices per casserole.

Heat up the frying oil in a wide pan, when very hot fry few aubergine slices at the time till they are golden-brownish. Prepare a wide plate with kitchen paper on it and once fried place the aubergine slices on the paper in order for it to absorb the extra oil.

Prepare the sauce

In the meanwhile or after frying the aubergine, finely chop the onion and fry it in a sauce pan with some olive oil. Chose a pan where you will be able to add the pasta once cooked.
Vegetarian option: once the onion is golden add the passata. If you opted for peeled tomatoes add those and gently squash.
Meat option: once the onion is golden add the bacon cubes and simmer till the meat is pink and cooked. Then add the passata. If you opted for peeled tomatoes add those and gently squash.
Let the sauce simmer while stirring for ten or fifteen minutes till the tomatoes, onion and bacon have shared flavours. Add just a pinch of salt, pepper and the basil leaves. Stir well.
Take the sauce off the heat not to let it dry.

Cooking the pasta and final preparation

In a big pot have a good amount of water to boil with a handful of coarse salt. When it boils add the pasta. Cook it for three or four minutes less than the suggested cooking time.
In the meanwhile, prepare the casseroles. Add just a tiny bit of sauce and drop of olive oil at the bottom of each casserole in order for the aubergine and pasta not to stick. Arrange the aubergine slices in the casseroles: place half of the slice in the casserole and let the other half hanging out, like flower petals. After adding the pasta you will have to fold them over.
Cut the mozzarella in little cubes.
Once the pasta is ready, drain it and pour it into the sauce pan with parmiggiano. Mix well.
With the help of a fork, roll up a good quantity of tagliatelle and place it in the casserole. Repeat for all the casseroles. Divide the mozzarella cubes into each casserole. Add a bit more pasta on top. Gently fold the aubergine petals on the pasta and close the casseroles.
Cook in a fan oven at 180 for fifteen minutes.
Once ready the casseroles will be burning hot hence let rest for ten minutes before serving.
Serve directly into the pretty casseroles.

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