Monday, May 16, 2011

Cheesy Eggplant and Ricotta Casserole

3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
2  pounds of plum tomatoes cleaned and put through a food processor or use 2 (28-ounce) cans of whole tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
seasalt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, oregano, parsley
4 cups Italian flavored bread crumbs
 garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup burgundy wine

5 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds medium eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (I take the skins off)
2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2  cups freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 pounds shredded  whole milk mozzarella cheese

Making the sauce first, put  oil in a large saucepan and heat.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and the rest of the spices and  herbs and let that cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the tomatoes add wine and bring to a low simmer. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Combine the bread crumbs, 1/4 cup grating cheese, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and oregano in a shallow pie plate,  season generously with salt and pepper and mix well set aside.
Beat 3 of the eggs into another pie plate,  season with salt, pepper , beat together with a fork to mix set aside. Place the flour in a large plastic bag.

Heat about 1/4-inch olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, shake several eggplant slices  in the flour, then dip them in the egg, and finally coat them in the bread crumbs. Put as many eggplant in the skillet  to  fit comfortably in a single layer and cook until tender and well browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

In a medium size bowl mix the ricotta and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano cheese. Stir in the basil and remaining 2 eggs, and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large buttered baking dish place spoon some sauce first, a layer eggplant, the ricotta mixture on top, the tomato sauce, some shredded mozzarella cheese and the grated Parmesan. Add another layer of eggplant. Repeat until everything is used.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and top with mozzarella cheese.
Bake for about 1 hour, until golden and bubbling. Let stand for about 20 minutes before cutting
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