Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dinner with Friends

We had friends over for dinner tonight, so yesterday morning I was digging around in the fridge trying to figure out what I wanted to make when I came across some eggplant that needed to be cooked.

A few weeks ago I made a really tasty moussaka and I kept remembering how much I enjoyed the way the ground lamb, eggplant, tomato and seasonings worked together. I wasn't quite ready to make moussaka again, so I settled for a Greek-inspired baked pasta dish.

Moussaka Pasta Bake

2 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2"- 1" cubes
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2" - 1" cubes
2 - 3 cloves of garlic (don't peel it!)
2 - 3 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
26 oz container of tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
1 box of your favorite pasta - I used small shells (they come in 14 oz boxes now, remember when it used to be a pound??)
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant and onions with olive oil on a baking sheet. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, or until browned and fragrant. About halfway through the roasting time, coat the unpeeled garlic in a little olive oil and add it to the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, heat bring a big pot of water to boil for your pasta and heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. As it cooks, break up any large bits. If necessary, drain off any excess fat before you stir in the oregano, cinnamon and mint. Add the tomato puree and cook for a little while. Your pasta should be cooking at this time (follow package directions for al dente).

Once the eggplant and onions are done, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Add the eggplant and onion to the meat/tomato mixture and cook for a little while to bring the flavors together. Peel the garlic and smash it before you add that to the beef mixture. At this point, make sure you taste the mixture to see if it needs additional seasoning.

When your pasta has finished cooking, drain it and put it in 9 x 13 baking dish. Mix in the meat/eggplant/tomato mixture and then add most of the feta cheese. Mix well and then sprinkle the rest of the feta on top.

Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the cheese is a little browned and the top shells are a little crispy.

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