Thursday, 9 April 2015

Upside-Down Pasta!

Timballo di Anelletti, Melanzane, Pomodorini, Fagioli & Ricotta Fresca
Baked Anelletti with Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes, Green Beans & Fresh Ricotta


Supper was just a bowl of pasta really... but it was a bowl of pasta that got turned upside-down and baked in the oven!

You can't get more typically Sicilian when it comes to pasta than a nice bowl of anelletti, those little slinky-rings with the nice, chewy bite. And especially if they are paired with eggplant. Tomatoes as well? Sure! And fresh Ricotta cheese? Well, that settles it!

But- despite having lots of typical ingredients in it, I have to disappoint you and let you in on a secret... this is not some old traditional dish- it is just something I put together on the spur of the moment this evening!


I have always wanted to make one of these pasta bakes- and even though it didn't look as pretty as I had hoped... I was proud that it turned out as well as it did!

Practice makes perfect I suppose- and when the result is as delicious as this- well, practicing could get to be kinda fun! Especially if you improvise. like I did this evening and use whatever you happen to have at hand in your fridge at the time. If you follow the basic steps, you can always find something tasty to work into a dish like this- which makes it sensible, tasty and economic good cooking! And that, as you know, is exactly what I love most!


For my generous single serving, I needed 1 small eggplant, a good handful of cherry tomatoes, 1 small onion, 1 handful of green beans, t tablespoons of fresh ricotta, 1 egg, 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, a little olive oil and some fresh basil and parsley. Pretty simple stuff!


This was also a relatively "light" recipe compared to many. It used very little fat and the Bechamel that would normally be a part of this was replaced by just a couple of spoons of ricotta... with plenty of nutmeg in the mix, the result had just the same rich flavor- so as this saved work and calories... it turned out to be a pretty good idea!


The eggplant got relatively thinly sliced, the onion, tomatoes and beans relatively finely chopped... and I was soon ready to roll!


I began by starting the anelletti boiling and turned on the oven to get hot and ready for baking.

Next, I got busy frying the eggplant slices in just a little olive oil with plenty of salt and pepper. After it had fried from each side for 1-2 minutes, I added a little splash of water to the frying pan and let it bubble and evaporate and steam away into the eggplant. It soon dries out, but it makes the eggplant cook quicker and saves you having to get it soaked in oil- don#t worry, it will brown nicely all the same! Only... don't let it get brown! Cook it just long enough for it to become soft and slightly golden and then set it to one side to cool.


After the pasta had boiled for 5 minutes, I added the beans, let them boil together for 2 minutes, turned off the stove and let them then sit and finish cooking in the residual heat for a further couple of minutes.

In the meantime, having removed the eggplant from the frying pan, I then added the tomatoes and onion, a little chopped basil, salt, pepper and a little olive oil and fried them until the onion became translucent.


I then chopped up a couple of the slices of eggplant and added them to the tomatoes, stir-frying everything together until the tomatoes began to darken and gain some good color.


And then I added the pasta and beans, along with a little of the water that they had been boiling in.


I stirred everything together well and kept on cooking at a high temperature for 2-3 minutes, until it all became nicely amalgamated, then took it off the heat to cool whilst I prepared the ricotta-egg mix.


The 2 tablespoons of ricotta went into a bowl along with the egg and a good pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg, I whisked everything together until it was nice and smooth with a fork and then got ready to assemble my "timballo".


I greased and sprinkled a small baking dish with olive oil and bread crumbs and then laid out a few slices of eggplant to line the sides. I added a few extra sprinkles, just in case, to help soak up any excess liquid that may have build up during baking.

By now, the anelletti were nice and cool, so I spooned them into a bowl where I could add the ricotta "cream".

In it went, along with a good pinch of finely chopped parsley and a little more salt, pepper and nutmeg... we do want this to be nice and tasty after all!


And then of course, into the baking dish it went! Make sure your bowl is not too large as you need to fill it to the brim in order to be able to turn it out successfully!


The final touch is a nice layer of bread crumbs, which will make a nice crispy base once you turn the finished timballo out at the end. Add a light drizzle of olive oil, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes at 180°C, then remove the foil and continue baking for a further 5-10 minutes or so until the bread crumbs become crispy and golden brown.


Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes after taking it out of the oven, then place a plate on top and turn it upside-down... wait a minute... then remove the baking dish- and if you are lucky- there it will be, all in one piece! So remember- oil that dish and add plenty of bread crumbs!


And then simply enjoy! And let me tell you now... if you do make this... you WILL enjoy it! Word!


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