Sicilian Pasta al forno
Sicilian Pasta al forno is unlike your ordinary baked pasta dish. This Sicilian baked pasta is layered with eggplant; small meatballs; hard boiled eggs; ground meat; ricotta; and mozzarella. A typical Sunday lunch meal and perfect for feeding a crowd!
Servings 8 -10 servings
For the meatballs
- 500 grams ground meat trio (beef, veal, pork) divided
- 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs from day old bread
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated
- 1 small clove garlic finely minced
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp. fresh parsley minced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- pinch salt
- black pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 796 ml can whole plum tomatoes
- 660 ml jar tomato passata (tomato purée)
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 350 gram eggplant (medium sized)
- 1 link mild Italian sausage (or spicy if you prefer)
- 2 large hard boiled eggs
- 260 grams mozzarella shredded
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 small garlic clove finely minced
- 1 large egg lighty beaten
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 500 grams short pasta (rigatoni, penne, fusilli)
Prepare the meatballs:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl combine 250 grams of ground meat trio (half the package); fresh crumb from day old bread soaked in milk; grated Pecorino Romano cheese; eggs; fresh parsley; olive oil; a finely minced clove of garlic; a pinch of salt and black pepper. Mash all ingredients together with a fork or your hands.
Roll into heaping teaspoon sized balls and place on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.
Prepare the tomato sauce:
Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, add a small diced onion and sauté until soft. Stir in a finely minced garlic clove.
Add can of whole Italian plum tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon or use a potato masher. Stir in tomato passata. Pour some water into the can of tomatoes and the jar of sauce, swirl it around to gather the remaining sauce and pour into the sauce pan. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional).
Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. When the meatballs are browned, carefully add them to the sauce and cook loosely covered for 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Prepare remaining ingredients:
Sausage: Once the meatballs are out of the oven, bake a sausage link (or more if you prefer) for about 20 minutes. Then add to the sauce to simmer along with the meatballs.
Eggplant: Peel off about half the skin (or peel completely if you prefer) from a medium sized eggplant (about 350 grams). Slice lengthwise into 1/2 cm strips. Place on a parchment paper covered baking sheet, brush both sides with olive oil and salt lightly. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Hard boiled eggs: cut into thin slices.
Remaining ground meat trio: heat olive oil in a small skillet. Sauté a small diced onion, a small minced garlic clove and remaining ground meat trio. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Once cooled add 1 lightly beaten egg; 1/2 cup mozzarella (taken from the total amount in the recipe); 2 tbsps. grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tbsp. ricotta (taken from total amount). Stir together until well combined.
When the sauce with the meatballs and sausage is ready, transfer the sausage to a cutting board and cut into rounds. Transfer the meatballs to a small bowl.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in a generous amount of sauce, leaving a few ladleful's behind to add to the casserole when assembling the dish.
Spoon 1/3 of the pasta to a 16" X 9" baking dish.
In no particular order layer 1/2 of the filling ingredients over the pasta: sausage rounds; meatballs; ground meat mixture; eggplant pieces; hard boiled eggs; dollops of ricotta; 1/3 of the mozzarella and about 2 tbsps. of grated Parmesan. Drizzle some sauce over the ingredients.
Add half the remaining pasta and once again layer the remaining ingredients (sausage to ricotta); half the remaining mozzarella, 2 tbsps. grated Parmesan and a drizzle of tomato sauce.
Top with the remaining pasta; tomato sauce; mozzarella and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree F preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20-30 minutes more, depending on how crisp you prefer your pasta.
Let sit tented with foil for about 15 minutes before serving.
- The preparation of this dish can be lengthy however it can be broken down into manageable steps. Prepare the sauce with meatballs and sausage as well as the roasted eggplant a day ahead. The following day, assemble and bake.
- The entire dish may also be assembled a day ahead and simply baked before serving.
- Try replacing the mozzarella with caciocavallo cheese.
- Add about 1 cup of frozen peas to the sauce as is common in Sicily.
- This pasta is delicious reheated the following day!
- Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- The nutritional information provided is approximate and may vary according to exact portion sized and ingredients used.
Calories: 872kcal | Carbohydrates: 80g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 228mg | Sodium: 953mg | Potassium: 1206mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 1482IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 552mg | Iron: 7mg