Pasta Al Forno- Baked Pasta With Eggplant Parm
Nothing brings friends and family together quite like a hearty Italian pasta dish - and this Pasta al Forno is certainly no exception! Combining layered baked pasta with the classic melanzane parmigiana (eggplant parm), this dish is the ultimate comfort food and is perfect for feeding a crowd at get-togethers or on special occasions.
A little while ago, our very own John Consiglio and his sister Chef Angela Consiglio were lucky enough to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon cooking with our friends Angela DeSalvo and Anna Romano from Nonna’s Way, whipping up this delectable Pasta al Forno recipe.
Pasta Al Forno - Baked Pasta With Eggplant Parm
Consiglio's Kitchenware with Nonna's Way
A couple of weeks back, we had the opportunity to spend a Sunday with siblings, John and Angela Consiglio from Consiglio’s Kitchenware. We were interested in learning about a recipe handed down from their Nonna Angela, wife of their late Nonno John Consiglio who founded Consiglio’s Kitchenware in 1975. If you haven’t already visited their store, you gotta go. They have an amazing selection of kitchenware, cookware, and specialty food prep appliances to handle all of your cook and prepare-from-scratch needs! They are located at 41 Horner Ave, Etobicoke ON, M8Z 4X4 or you can order online and have your purchase shipped right to your door!
What a bonus for us that Angela is a certified Chef! She graduated with honours from the Culinary Management Program at George Brown College in 2011. Later in 2014, she obtained a Bachelor of Business in Hospitality Operations Management. Throughout our day together, she provided us with lots of tips and how-to’s that we are excited to share with you in upcoming posts. We took this opportunity to record her in action.
This dish was such a pleasant surprise. Every region of Italy seems to have a bit of a different twist to their recipes and this Barese pasta al forno was no exception. Tender and buttery melanzane, eggplant, is baked right into layers of penne, meatballs, sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese. Trust us when we say, you do not need to serve anything else with this very hearty dish.
Talk about comfort food! Think tender eggplant parm meets lasagna….can’t you just taste it? It is as delicious as it sounds!!
Pasta al forno means baked pasta. As mentioned, you will find many variations of pasta al forno using a variety of vegetables and meat, some use a traditional meat sauce while others also add in a béchamel sauce. You really can’t go wrong!
These all-in-one dishes make for a tasty and easy way to feed large gatherings such as holiday or birthday celebrations.
This is a go-to recipe in the Consiglio family, cherished and loved by young and old. Angela explained that this recipe is generations old as her great-grandmother would cook this back in their hometown in Italy.
It is a great dish to make together with family members, including kids! Although there are several steps to this recipe, the basic skills are quite simple. Start with preparing a basic tomato sauce so that it has time to cook, then prepare the homemade meatballs and roast them in the oven. Finally, bread and lightly fry the eggplant slices.
Angela admits organization is key and don’t forget to clean up as you go. See the video below on tips from Angela of how to make the breading of the eggplant easier and how to assemble the layers.
Pasta Al Forno Ingredients
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsps. tomato paste
- 3 L tomato puree, (seedless)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper.
For the Meat Balls:
- 1 lb ground veal
- 1 lb ground pork
- ½ cup bread crumbs, plain
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
For the Eggplant:
- 2 eggplants, peeled, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (add pinch of salt/pepper)
- 3 eggs + 1 tbsp. water, lightly beaten (add pinch of salt/pepper)
- 3 tbsps. vegetable oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper.
Putting it all Together:
- 2 lbs of penne lisce (2 packs), half cooked, drained in colander
- 1 mozzarella, grated
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Pasta al Forno Preparation
Prepare the sauce:
- Heat a large pot, add olive oil and sauté onion and garlic until onions are translucent, approx. 4 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and mix well. Cook for about 30 seconds to develop the rich tomato flavour.
- Add tomato puree, salt and pepper.
- Cook for about 1 hour stirring occasionally.
Prepare the meatballs:
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- In a large bowl, mix the veal and pork with your hands to combine.
- Add bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, eggs, water, salt and pepper.
- Mix with your hands until all ingredients are well combined.
- Form into small meatballs then place on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through.
Prepare the eggplant:
- Peel, and slice the eggplant.
- Set up a production line → 1 bowl for flour, 1 bowl for whisked eggs, flat plate for coated eggplant.
- Begin coating eggplant one piece at a time in flour, dip into egg mixture then transfer to the flat plate.
- Once all the eggplant slices are coated, heat a large sauté pan and add oil. Once the oil is hot, begin lightly frying eggplant until golden on each side.
- Set aside.
Putting it altogether:
- Preheat oven to 350 ᵒF
- Add the half cooked pasta back to the empty pot it was boiling in, toss with ½ cup tomato sauce to prevent sticking.
- Layer the ingredients in a large deep pan. Proceed in this order: tomato sauce at the bottom, pasta, eggplant, meat balls, sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, more sauce. Repeat. The top layer should only have tomato sauce, a few meat balls and Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with foil paper.
- Bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 350 ᵒF.