Friday, 11 October 2013

Working that Oven!

Festonati al Forno con Melanzane, Olive, Pomodoro & Scamorza
Oven-Baked Festonati with Eggplant, Olives, Tomato & Scamorza

Looks pretty delicious, doesn't it? Well let me tell you that, yes, of course you are quite right and it really was! But at the same time, let me tell you that this dish was born of the need to use up a few left-overs... the last handful of "Festonati" noodles, the other half of the eggplant from the other night, a last few cherry tomatoes and just a few olives for an extra "kick". Yep- this was good house-keeping and good eating at the same time!

Eggplant, tomato and olives are classics when it comes to Italian and especially Sicilian dishes- you really can't go wrong! So even though this was just a small dish and even though I was careful as always to do a lower fat preparation than most, it was really delicious and satisfying... and quick and easy to boot!

The first thing I did was to turn on the oven, to get it nice and warm to bake the pasta towards the end. Whilst it was warming, I cut the eggplant into thin slices, which I then cut into bite-sized pieces. I lightly salted and peppered them and then popped them into the oven under the broiler for 4-5 minutes from each side- that was all it took as they were cut so small and thin. This meant I had to keep an eye on them, but at the same time, I started the pasta boiling... there is always multi tasking to be done!

Speaking of which, whilst the pasta was boiling, I dropped 4-5 cherry tomatoes into the water with it, so that I would be able to take away the skins. I then cut them into quarters and sautéed them briefly- just 2-3 minutes, with some finely chopped garlic, basil and olive oil and a simple seasoning of salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

As soon as the pasta was beginning to become "al-dente" but was still a little too hard, I poured off most of the water and then topped it up with milk to the point that the pasta was just covered. I then fetched the eggplant out of the oven and added it to the pasta along with a generous grating of nutmeg. This would give the pasta the flavor of a bechamel without the thickness- and more importantly without all of the flour and butter!

I then started to layer the pasta and eggplant, with the tomatoes and some sliced black olives, adding grated scamorza cheese in-between and making sure the ingredients were equally distributed. A little more nutmeg and pepper each time made sure that it would be packed with flavor. Whilst it was still piping hot, I transferred it to the hot oven for 10 minutes at 300°F and a further 2-3 just to get it slightly browned on top.

I told you it would be simple- and I promise you it will be delicious! Not as heavy as a maccaroni cheese or a lasagna, this is a nice treat all the same- and your waist-line (and mine!) will be thankful! That we we can indulge in something else that's wonderful tomorrow :-)

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