Baked Spicy Cauliflower and Eggplant Pasticcio is a wonderful classic pasta dish that warms and nourishes us on blustery and rainy days. With great flavor and texture, this savory casserole adapts well to vegan and gluten-free versions. Make Spicy Cauliflower and Eggplant Ragù 1 to 3 days in advance so flavors blend. Include any type of tubular pasta, whole grain, classic, or gluten-free. On the day of serving, combine all ingredients, layer as written below, and bake. Serve this casserole as a first or main course, or as a side dish. Scrumptious!
4 servings. Baking time is 45 to 55 minutes.
Spicy Cauliflower and Eggplant Ragù Click for the recipe
12 ounces (340 g) whole-grain penne rigate
8 ounces (227 g) cherry tomatoes, split in half, seeded (1 1/3 cups or 315 ml volume)
4 shishito or other small peppers, split, seeded, chopped
4 ounces (113 g) shredded aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, or vegan cheese (1 cup or 237 ml volume)
Fresh or dried oregano to taste
Fresh basil leaves to taste
Cheese Topping: Divide in half for 2 layers
8 ounces (227 g) shredded or sliced low-moisture mozzarella or vegan cheese (2 cups or 473 ml volume)
Ovenproof Baking Pan or Casserole: Approximately 9-inches by 13-inches by 2-inches deep (23-cm by 33-cm by 5-cm deep)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Preparation: Make the Spicy Cauliflower and Eggplant Ragù 1 to 3 days in advance. Remove the ragù from the refrigerator 1 hour before combining ingredients so it warms to room temperature. Put the ragù in a large mixing bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes, peppers, cheese, and herbs.
Pasta: Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and boil it to only the firm al dente stage because it continues to cook while baking in the oven. Drain the pasta well and add it to a large mixing bowl. Mix together the pasticcio ingredients until well-blended. When layering, divide the pasticcio mixture into halves for even layering.
Layering the Pasticcio: Assemble as follows
Top: 1/2 of shredded or sliced low-moisture mozzarella or vegan cheese
1/2 of pasticcio mixture
1/2 of shredded or sliced low-moisture mozzarella or vegan cheese
1/2 of pasticcio mixture
Bottom: extra-virgin olive oil for casserole or baking dish
The pasticcio mixture before topped with cheese and baked in the oven.
Baking Spicy Cauliflower and Eggplant Pasticcio: Preheated 350 F/175 C/Gas Mark 4 for 45 to 55 minutes.
Place the pasticcio in the center of the preheated oven. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then cover the pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or as needed to become very hot to the touch with melted cheese on top. Remove the cover and continue to bake for the final 5 to 10 minutes.