I’ve been taking a cooking class for the last few weeks and thought I would share a recipe with you. My class is very informal, taught by the friend of a friend in her own kitchen. There are usually between 5 to 8 of us, women of all ages, and all Italian except for me!
It has been a language AND cultural lesson as I learn Italian phrases for simple things like double boiler = bagnomaria (Mary’s bath.) Also there is whole new vocab of cuts of meat – who knew there was a difference between turkey hip and turkey thigh? I thought I had my poultry cuts down.
Measuring is also new, partly because our teacher measures by handfuls and fingers ie, two fingers of wine in a dessert, but also because everything is measured by metric measurements. While this is not at all a surprise – I have been living in Europe for years – in my day-to-day personal cooking I still rely heavily on the measuring cups I brought from the US. And even when I go to the store or the market I’ll ask for “enough salami to make three sandwiches” instead of an actual weight, like 70 grams.
But I digress… you probably want to get to the recipe!
I will confess that the pictures are from the internet – not mine, because I ate mine up before thinking I would need to document it. But I wanted you to have some idea of what it would look like. Similar recipes were called “timballos” or “parmiganos” but my teacher called it sformato, so that is what it is to me. Others described them as vegetable custards, which would never describe this. I think it is one of those dishes that can vary widely by region.
Sformato mean unshaped or unmolded, because sometimes they are flipped out of the baking dish before serving, but I think casserole style is fine. It could also be made with zucchini or mushrooms in place of the eggplant.
Also note that the measurements are by no means exact. I think you can be VERY flexible with your measurements and still end up with something very tasty.
Sformato di melanzane – Eggplant & Rice Casserole
1 med eggplant, washed and sliced into ¼” rounds
3 cups rice (basmati, regular, or brown)
1 small onion, chopped and sauteed in a bit of oil and water with salt until very soft
6 Tb olive oil
breadcrumbs (about 3/4 cup divided)
2-1/2 cups tomato sauce (plain) (passata vellutata in Italy)
2 eggs, beaten
parmigiano cheese, grated
7 slices of cheese: ementhal, provolone, or fontina (not fresh mozarella) cut into small (not tiny) pieces
**I tried about a cup of ricotta because I didn’t have those cheeses, and it was awesome too!**
Directions: Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F
Cook the rice according to its regular directions.
While that is cooking, grill the slices of eggplant (I used a grill pan – no oil or seasonings) and saute the onion.
Prepare a medium size, deep-sided casserole dish by oiling the bottom and sides and sprinkling breadcrumbs to cover.
In another bowl mix the eggs with the tomato sauce, adding a Tablespoon of oil and some salt and pepper for taste.
Once the rice is cooked, mix in the sauteed onion. Now you are ready for the layers.
Take the slices of eggplant, sprinkle with a small pinch of salt on ONE SIDE, and place the slices in a layer on the bottom of the casserole dish. Pour over half of the tomato mixture, making sure it is even. Cover with all of the rice, spread evenly. Cover rice well with grated parmigiano, and then half of the other cheese of choice, spread randomly.
Add another layer of lightly salted eggplant slices, parmigiano, and other cheese. Cover the cheeses with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the top with more breadcrumbs, and a drizzle of oil.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden on top
If you make this please let me know how it turns out!