Eggplant Timbale

When you are little, Mother's Day is always spent making your mom something nice.  It always seemed to be a hand drawn card, or an attempt at breakfast in bed.  Then you get a bit older and have some money to spend and you try to find that perfect gift.  After a few years of that you start to realize your mother has most of the things she wants, so what do you do then?  Yup, things come full circle and you revert back to making things.  For our mother we decided to do what we do best and make a nice meal.  It is still hard however to choose the right menu.  You want to cook something that is a bit more intricate to make than normal, something that takes some time and effort to complete.  It also needs to taste good, so choosing a new recipe is always a risk because you are never quite sure how it will turn out.  Forgoing our better judgment we decided to go with a new recipe. 

The recipe we found was for a Eggplant Timbale.  This recipe comes from the cookbook Giada's Kitchen by Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis.  Giada is famous for making tons of classic Italian dishes as well as creating new inventive ones.  We have made some of her recipes in the past so we were confident that it would turn out well, but we kept asking outselves what a Timbale was.  It turns out Timbale refers to the type of pan used to cook the dish.  The eggplant is layered in the bottom of the pan, then filled with pasta and meat and covered with eggplant to create this stuffed eggplant pie of Italian goodness.  We figured this would be challenging and interesting to make, so we went for it.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill. 
  2. Brush the eggplant slices with 1/3 cup olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  3. Grill the eggplant until tender and colored with grill marks, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. 
  6. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. 
  7. Add the beef and pork, and brown the meat, breaking it into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. 
  8. Add the Marsala and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. 
  9. Turn off the heat. Add the peas and marinara sauce and stir to combine. Add the cheeses, basil, and cooked pasta. Set aside.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the springform pan with the grilled eggplant. Be sure that the slices overlap and hang over the edge of the pan. 
  11. Fill the pan with the pasta mixture, pressing down to make sure the pan is filling up evenly. 
  12. Fold the eggplant slices up over the top of the pasta and add a few more slices on top to completely enclose the timbale. 
  13. Bake the timbale until warmed through and the cheese has melted, about 30 minutes. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes to set.
  14. To serve, invert the timbale onto a serving plate and remove the springform pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese over the top. Slice and serve.

Results:

We were a bit intimidated at first when we saw this recipe in the book.  Turns out it is actually very simple, there are a bunch of components and steps but it all comes together to form an amazing meal.  The grilled eggplant helps to entomb all of the meat, pasta, cheese and sauce in this beautiful pie shape..  The eggplant was fresh and after being grilled it helped add a smoky flavor to the dish.  Once you cut into the timbale you are introduced to the gooey, pasta with meat sauce center.  The sauce of course can come from a jar, but any self respecting Italian knows it is just as easy to whip some up from scratch.  We always make our own, you can see our recipe here (Sauce Recipe).  The sauce is mixed together with the onion, beef and sausage mixture which has been cooked down in Marsala wine.  The meat and onions really soaked up the Marsala imparting this rich flavor.  When mixed together with the sauce, peas and cheese you end up with this extremely flavorful filling.  There are just layers upon layer of flavors hidden throughout this dish.  Everything works so well together and provides a unique eating experience.  

Should Or Should Not Eat:

This recipes is both a unique dish which will really surprise all of your guests.  It is not often you serve what appears to be eggplant pie.  It sounds much classier as an Eggplant Timbale and is a Should Eat.  This dish offers up huge flavors combined with classic Italian ingredients.  If you love  Eggplant and pasta, this dish is for you.