Baked Vegetarian Penne Pasta alla Siciliana with Smoked Mozzarella & Grilled Eggplant

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This is rich & comforting & easy to make.  I made the sauce but you could use a jar of your favorite kind.  I used real cheese – you can use a vegan alternative – or even omit it.    If you go with no cheese – there is no reason to bake it & you can serve it right from the stove top.  The real key to this is grilling the eggplant – to get rid of that texture & add a smokiness that adds to the autumnal flavors of this dish.

Baked Vegetarian Penna Pasta alla Siciliana with Smoked Mozzarella & Grilled Eggplant

Serve 4 well

INGREDIENTS

1 lb dry pasta

Olive oil

1 eggplant – sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

28 oz chopped tomatoes

6-10 cherry tomatoes – quartered (optional)

1-6 garlic cloves (to taste) – chopped

8 oz smoked mozzarella – grated

1 cup regular (or more smoked) mozzarella – grated

1 tsp – 1 TBS crushed red pepper (to taste)

1 tsp oregano

1/4 cup fresh parsley – chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil – chopped

S&P

Garnish: more grated cheese (Parmesan or Asiago), chopped fresh basil or parsley

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven (if you are using cheese) to 350 degrees.

Cook & drain the pasta.

Either brush the eggplant with olive oil r spray with cooking spray & grill (or a grill or grill pan) – for a few minutes on each side until they are nicely grilled.  Cool & chop.

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Heat a TBS or so of olive oil in a stock pan.  When hot – add the garlic & cook one minute.  Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed red pepper, oregano, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, basil & parsley.  Cook on low for a while until it thickens & the flavors meld.  Maybe 20 minutes or so.  Add the cooked pasta & toss.  If not using cheese – serve & garnish once it is heated through.

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If using cheese – add the 8 oz grated smoked mozzarella & toss.  Put it into a greased casserole & top with the remaining cup of grated cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbling.

Garnish with cheese or herbs & serve!

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