Melanzane Spaccatelle

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2 large eggplants, about 1-1/2 pounds total weight
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil
salt to taste
3 ounces caciocavallo cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick (provolone cheese is recommended as a substitute)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a flameproof 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

2. Cut each eggplant in half vertically. Make several crosshatches on the cut surface of each half to ensure even cooking.

3. Place the halves in salted cold water to cover (about 3 tablespoons salt for each 8 cups water) for 10 minutes. Remove, rinse, pat dry and place in the prepared baking pan, cut sides up. They should fit snugly.

4. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and basil. Mix well, season with salt, and mix again. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

5. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the eggplants and cover the pan.

6. Bake until eggplant is tender when pierced with a fork and the sauce has thickened, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven.

7. Turn the oven to broil. Arrange the cheese slices evenly over the tops of the eggplant halves. Slip the pan under the broiler until the cheese melts and is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Serve at once.

Makes 4 servings

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