This really is a dish that tells you that vegetables really are better than meat.
Line it up against a chicken parmigiana and hands down the eggplant wins. Even without the shallow fried-breadcrumb.
The basil. The ricotta. The Parmesan. The toasted breadcrumbs.
I don’t often cook a dish twice in quick succession, though this is now in the repertoire. Make the sauce a few days ahead, the aubergine mixture in the afternoon and bam, with a salad of greens, you’ll have just a marvellous dinner on your hands.
Another Ottolenghi home-run.
90gm fresh breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough)
4 aubergines (eggplants) roughly cut into 2 1/2cm cubes (1kg)
150ml olive oil, plus extra for shaping
75gm Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
10gm parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
6 garlic cloves, crushed
15gm basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 x 400gm tins of peeled plum tomatoes, blitzed until smooth (600gm)
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
3/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
45gm pitted Kalamata olives, roughly torn in half
Salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 160c. Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and dried out. Set aside to cool and turn the oven temperature up to 220c.
- On a large, parchment-lined tray, toss the aubergines with 75ml of oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spread out as much as possible and bake for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until golden brown.
- Roughly chop the aubergines not a chunky mash, then transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until cool. Once cool, add the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, egg, yolk, flour, breadcrumbs, a third of the garlic, 10gm of the basil, 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well, then with lightly oiled hands, shape the mixture into 16 golf-ball-sized dumplings, about 55gm each, compressing them as you go so they hold together.
- Put 2 tbsp of oil into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. In two batches, fry the dumplings for 3-4 minutes, turning them until golden-brown all over. Adjust the heat if they’re browning too much. Add another 1 tbsp of oil and fry the remaining dumplings in the same way. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the remaining 2 tbsp of oil into a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, chilli flakes, paprika, oregano, 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper and cook for 8 minutes or until thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Pour 400ml of water, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Pour the sauce into a medium baking dish, top with the dumplings and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the oven, scatter over the olives, the remaining basil and a grating of Parmesan, and serve.