I love adding fresh veggies to my meal, and am constantly on the hunt to find recipes that can incorporate them. Ordinarily I find vegetarian dishes to be a real downer, so I had to pull out the big guns here..cheese! And not just one, but 2 types; Parmesan for the depth of flavour and Mozzarella for the ooey gooey mess. I may be getting a little carried away with the amount of cheese that I’ve used, but I make no apologies for it. Let’s focus on the broccoli instead, shall we?
This sauce that I’ve used for the macaroni is a slight variation of my mom’s go-to tomato sauce recipe for pizzas, and is very reliable in terms of flavour and prep-time. The overall concept of this dish is inspired by an article I came across in the ‘Good Food’ magazine.
Crispy aubergines, gratinated cheese and the slight (very desirable) tanginess of the tomato sauce make this pasta bake a real winner! You don’t know it yet, but you need this recipe in your life.
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 large aubergine, sliced lengthwise (about 1/2 cm thickness)
200 grams elbow macaroni
2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
5 ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
A small bunch of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
3/4 tsp oregano
5 black peppercorns
3/4 tsp chilli flakes
100 grams grated Parmesan
200 grams grated Mozzarella
2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the tomatoes in hot water for about 5 minutes until the skins start to soften. Let them cool slightly before you peel off the skins; roughly purée them in a blender and set aside.
In a pan over high heat, fry the sliced aubergines in olive oil until well browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes; flip them onto the other side and cook for a further 3 minutes. Lay them out on a kitchen towel to drain off the excess oil.
Boil the macaroni until al dente, drain, and keep aside. Blanch the broccoli florets into the same pot of boiling pasta water and cook for 2 minutes, no more (Add in the broccoli just as the macaroni is getting done, so that they can be drained together. Less washing up too!) *Save about 1/2 cup of the starchy water that the pasta has been cooking in.
Pre-heat oven to 200°C (400°F)
In the same pan that the aubergines were fried, add another tbsp of olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until they turn translucent and brown slightly. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, chilli flakes, oregano, shop-bought tomato purée, and the puréed tomato; cook on medium flame for about 5-7 minutes until the tomato mixture darkens slightly and reduces in quantity. Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and discard. Add the basil leaves and the macaroni to this tomato sauce and stir through. *If the consistency is a little dry at this stage, add a bit of the starchy pasta water and stir through.
For the assembling of the dish, this is the sequence respectively : In a casserole dish, add the first layer of macaroni&sauce mixture at the bottom – top with a few broccoli florets and a layer of aubergines – grate over a layer of Parmesan cheese (1/2 the quantity) and repeat (I made 3 layers, but you could do 2 as well)
Make the top-most layer that of the broccoli and aubergines; grate the Mozzarella over the top, before placing in the oven to gratinate for about 10 minutes.