Pasta ‘ncasciata is a version of a traditional baked pasta dish known as pasta al forno in Italian. The dry pasta is partially cooked first in salted boiling water then strained and seasoned with a rich tomato ragu, cubes of fried eggplant, pieces of caciocavallo cheese, and pockets of besciamella cream sauce tucked in between layers of pasta. Pasta alla Norma is a typical dish from the southeast part of Sicily made with eggplant, tomato sauce, and ricotta salata. This pasta ‘ncasciata plays with those same summer flavors and the seasoned pasta is assembled into a casserole pan to bake in the oven. This allows all of the flavors to come together, becoming one of the very few pasta dishes that tastes even better when you eat it later. The ragu can be made ahead
1 lb. rigatoni
2 oz. lean veal
1 clove garlic
2 oz. olive oil
1 lb. 2 oz. plum tomatoes
2 oz. chicken livers
2 oz. green peas
2 oz. salame
2 oz. Mozzarella
How to make the Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant:
Slice the eggplants and place on a chopping board propped on a slant. Cover with coarse salt and leave them under a weight for one hour until the bitter water seeps out. Wash, drain, pat dry and fry in 2 tbs. olive oil and set aside.
Brown the veal with the chopped garlic in oil (remove garlic when golden brown). Add the chopped, seeded plum tomatoes and cook for 10 min. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the livers, chopped, and the peas, cook for half an hour. Dice the salame and Mozzarella. Hard-boil the eggs and slice them. Cook the pasta just until al dente, mix with three quarters of the sauce, then add the salame and Mozzarella, and toss well.
Make layers of pasta mixture in a greased baking pan, alternating with layers of fried eggplant, slices of eggs and more sauce. Sprinkle the top layer with chopped basil and grated Pecorino and bake until a golden crust forms. Let the baked rigatoni rest for 10 min. and serve the pasta ‘ncasciata.
Regional recipe from Campania, Sicily