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Ziti, Eggplant, and Fontina Gratin

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Eggplant Controversies
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Cooks in Italy, as everywhere, disagree about whether or not eggplant should be peeled. It seems to be a matter of personal preference, but keep in mind that an eggplant that is overgrown or has been stored for a long time will have a tough skin that will not soften during cooking. It's often a good idea to peel it.
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Whether or not to salt and drain eggplant before cooking remains a matter of dispute, too. Some say you should salt slices heavily and drain them on paper towels for an hour to rid the eggplant of any bitterness; others feel it"s an unnecessary step. What is indisputably true is that eggplant that has been salted and drained will absorb less oil during frying than eggplant that has not.

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Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ziti or penne
  • 1/2 pound fontina, grated (about 2 cups)

Details

Preparation

Step 1

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the eggplant and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and cook 3 minutes longer.

Heat the broiler. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.

Toss the pasta with the eggplant, the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the cheese and toss again. Transfer the pasta to a shallow baking dish or gratin dish. Broil until the cheese melts and starts to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

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