This elegant baked dish is based on the Sicilian pasta ‘ncaciata’, a magnificent mound of hard-boiled eggs, cheese, pasta and tomato sauce encased in a shell of eggplant, it’s very showy, especially when the knife pierces the eggplant shell at the table, and the rich filling tumbles out in a cloud of steam and good smells.
Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1 cm (½ in) slices, Sprinkle with salt, and leave for 1 hour. Pat dry with paper towel.
Heat oil in large frypan, and fry eggplant, a few slices at a time until golden brown, or grill until tender. Drain on paper towel and set aside.
Heat oven to 190°C (375°F). Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite. Combine tomatoes, tomato passato, salt and pepper in saucepan and heat, stirring. Drain pasta well and combine with tomato sauce.
Arrange a layer of cooked eggplant on the lightly oiled base and sides of a 2.5 litre (4 pint) heatproof bowl or soufflé dish, overlapping the sides slightly, Fill with some of the pasta and sauce, then arrange half the bocconcini cheese and quartered eggs in a layer. Top with more pasta and sauce, and another layer of cheese and eggs. Finish with remaining pasta and sauce, and arrange remaining eggplant on top, tucking in any overlapping eggplant from the sides. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove foil and loosen the timballo with a knife. Place a large warmed serving platter on top of the dish and carefully turn the entire thing over so that the moulded eggplant slips out onto the platter.
Serve at the table, with a green salad.
© 1998 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.