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Eggplant Marinara Pasta Casserole

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Sabrina Bone
Yield

8 servings (serving size: about 2 cups)

“Now that I am retired, I have more time to cook. My husband and I love to travel, and this dish was inspired by a trip to Italy. Pancetta is Italian bacon and comes in a sausagelike roll; it lends a salty bite to the marinara.â€� —Glenda Mann, Longview, TX

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (1/2-inch) cubed eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 ounce pancetta, chopped
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 16 ounces uncooked penne (tube-shaped pasta)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
  • 1 (3-inch) piece French bread baguette (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Nutrition Information

  • calories 401
  • caloriesfromfat 24 %
  • fat 10.6 g
  • satfat 4.8 g
  • monofat 3.7 g
  • polyfat 0.6 g
  • protein 16.6 g
  • carbohydrate 58.5 g
  • fiber 5.4 g
  • cholesterol 26 mg
  • iron 1.7 mg
  • sodium 768 mg
  • calcium 183 mg

How to Make It

  1. Arrange eggplant on several layers of heavy-duty paper towels. Sprinkle eggplant with 1 teaspoon kosher salt; let stand 15 minutes. Pat dry with additional paper towels.

  2. Preheat oven to 450°.

  3. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet; cool.

  4. Cook pancetta in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, oil, and garlic to pan; cook 6 minutes or until onion is lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add wine to pan; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in basil, oregano, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; partially cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in eggplant.

  5. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Add pasta and reserved 1/4 cup cooking water to tomato mixture; stir well. Spoon pasta mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with fontina.

  6. Place baguette in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 1/2 cups. Add Parmesan to processor; pulse 5 times. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over fontina.

  7. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

  8. Wine note: With an American take on an Italian dish, why not try an American take on a red Italian wine, like Tamás Estates Sangiovese 2005 ($14), an American wine made from the same grape as Italian Chianti. With its medium body and plentiful acidity, sangiovese is a classic choice with all tomato dishes, and offers tart cherry and sweet vanilla flavors that nicely balance each other. —Jeffery Lindenmuth