It’s hot. I am not sure why I picked summer to inaugurate a food&more blog but I never chose the easy path. Moving to Switzerland from Italy, I thought, would have meant cool summer days, green meadows and happy cows but it’s official: It’s desert- freaking hot and I am melting.
I am longing the holidays: lazy days, the sound of cicadas, a swimming pool and a pile of books lined up on my kindle. This summer, we’ll go to Tuscany, to a tiny village close to Siena. After that, I will travel alone down south to see my family and come back home well fed and with at least one bag full of food.
Don’t ask me why but summer time in the south of Italy means one thing: deep frying. You would think that 40 + degrees would discourage anyone from getting close to a stove. Not in Calabria. My mother wakes up at five in the morning and starts frying aubergines for the parmigiana and the involtini di melanzane. When the rest of the house wakes up for breakfast the kitchen is already smelling of tomato sauce and fresh basil.
I must have inherited the frying gene because today, at work, I started dreaming of aubergines, and here I am.
Don’t let the length of the recipe scare you. It’s quite easy and delicious. Fried aubergines filled with tomato pasta, parmesan, ham and cheese, topped with a cheesy bechamel sauce and tomato sauce = paradise.
Involtini di melanzane e pasta (4 people)
3 medium sized aubergines
Cut the aubergines lengthwise. Put a layer of slices in a strainer and sprinkle a handful of cooking salt on it. Continue with layers of aubergines and salt until you finish the slices. Put a weight on top and wait. After one/two hours remove the weight, wash the aubergine extremely well and then squeeze the bitter juice out. Coat them in flour and fry them until brown but not too dark. Let them rest on some paper towel when done.
600 gr of cherry tomatoes (or a bottle of italian tomato sauce)
2 cloves of garlic
salt & pepper
Olive oil EVO
Warm some olive oil in a pot, add cherry tomatoes (or the tomato sauce), the shallot, the garlic and the basil, a small pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for one hour. Add some water should it become too dense. If the sauce is still too acidic, add a pinch of sugar.
500 ml milk
50 gr butter
50 gr flour
Ok this could be tricky but no panic. Put the flour in a pot and add the butter immediately. With a fork help the butter turn the flour into a paste, using circular motions. When the butter and the flour have formed a smooth buttery and yellow paste (don’t let it brown) add some milk and with a wood spoon start stirring until the thick paste becomes lava -like. Add the rest of the milk and stir until the mixture thickens. Add some nutmeg and you are done.
Put a pot on the stove with cold water. Add a handful of cooking salt. Wait for the boil (no small bubbles! big ones). Add the 120 gr spaghetti and stir for a couple of minutes, until the spaghetti has softened a bit and they are covered in water. Wait 7-8 min (or follow the instructions on the box) and drain the pasta. Before draining reserve a cup of water from the pot where you cooked the pasta. Put the pasta in a container and mix it with half of the tomato sauce and the parmesan let it cool down a bit before proceeding to the next step.
Ps: I really like this brand
150 gr parmesan
provolone cheese (or fontina cheese) diced
Prepare a baking tray with a layer of sauce and bechamel.
Lay down one slice of aubergine, fill it with a fork-full of spaghetti, add some ham, provolone a bit of bechamel, a pinch of parmesan, roll and put it in the baking tray. Continue until the baking tray is full. Make sure that they are squeezed together. Cover the rolls with tomato sauce, bechamel and finish with some parmesan.
Ps: the tomato sauce that goes in the baking tray needs to be not too thick because the pasta needs to absorb it when cooking in the oven. Should the sauce be too think add a bit of cooking water that you reserved from cooking the pasta.
In the oven 200 C for 40 min. You know it’s ready when a fantastic crust has formed on top.