Riso e Melanzane alla Palermitana

Rice and Aubergine Bake

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    8

Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

The shiny aubergine is the most popular vegetable in Sicily and has been ever since the Arabs introduced it to the island. It is used in everything from antipasti to desserts. This recipe may seem slightly long-winded, but it is definitely worth all the effort as the finished result looks and tastes spectacular.

Ingredients

  • 3 large aubergines/eggplants
  • 2 onions
  • 50 g/2 oz/¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 90 ml/6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, torn into shreds
  • 275 g/10 oz tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in quarters
  • 275 g/10 oz/1 ½ cups risotto rice
  • 600 ml/1 pint/2 ½ cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • 45 ml/3 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
  • sunflower oil, for shallow frying
  • 115 g/4 oz/1 cup freshly grated caciocavallo cheese (see Variations)
  • sea salt and ground black pepper

Method

  1. Trim the aubergines and slice into rounds 2cm/¾in thick. Spread them out in a colander or strainer and sprinkle generously with salt. Stand the colander or strainer in the sink, fit a plate inside, put a weight on top and leave to drain for 1-2 hours.

  2. Meanwhile, peel the onions and put them in a pan. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain. Cool for 4-5 minutes, then slice thinly.
  3. Melt the butter with half the oil in a pan. Add half the onion and fry for 4-5 minutes until softened. Stir in the parsley and basil. Cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. Season, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Heat the rest of the oil in a flameproof casserole. Add the rest of the onion and fry for 4 minutes until transparent.
  5. Stir in the rice until shiny and coated in oil, then stir in the stock. Cover the casserole with a lid or foil and put it in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, rinse the aubergine slices and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dust them lightly with flour. Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan until sizzling. Fry the slices in batches for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Add more oil to the pan as needed between batches. Lift out the slices with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

  7. Take the rice mixture out of the oven and stir in 30-45ml/2-3 tbsp grated caciocavallo cheese.
  8. Grease a 1.2kg/2½lb round mould with oil, then line the base and sides with aubergine slices. Cover with a layer of the tomato sauce, then with a layer of rice, and then a generous sprinkling of grated caciocavallo. Continue in this way until the mould is full, banging it down firmly on the work surface every now and again to settle the ingredients. Finish with a sprinkling of cheese.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn out on to a platter. Serve immediately.