Mediterranean Eggplant Pie (version II)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups 1/2-inch Japanese eggplant, diced cubes
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup  vegetable broth
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
one recipe cream sauce (see below)
1 pound small pasta, such as elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Cream Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
3-1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Cream Sauce:
In a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, and cook the roux until white bubbles begin to form. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring until the sauce comes to a boil, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

In a 12-inch sauté pan, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Stir in the eggplant, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the oregano, and basil, and cook until the eggplant becomes soft, about 4-6 minutes. Add the wine and broth, stirring the vegetables. Mix in the tomato puree and simmer for 10 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Season the mixture with more salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley. Set the mixture aside while you make the cream sauce. (At this point, the eggplant may be refrigerated for 2 days before assembling the final dish.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart casserole or 13 by 9-inch pan. Spread a layer of cream sauce in the bottom of the pan, and top it with half of the eggplant mixture. Spread the remaining pasta over the eggplant, spooning the remaining cream sauce over the top. Cover the sauce with the remaining eggplant and top with feta. Tent the casserole with foil and bake it for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before cutting it.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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