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Author Notes: I made this for a friend while she was recouperating from surgery. It's very warm and satisfying. The eggplant kind of melts into the meat sauce giving it a rich flavor, and the pecorino in the cheese sauce gives it just the right zing. —Berna
- Beef and Eggplant ragout:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 14 oz can tomatoes
- Cheese Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 8 ounces pecorino, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 10 ounces penne
- To make beef and eggplant ragout: In a large heavy saute pan, cook the onions until they begin to soften. Add the ground beef and saute over medium heat, breaking up clumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes longer. Add the garlic, salt, cinnamon and pepper and stir to combine. Make some room at the bottom of the pan, add the tomato paste and cook for a minute to caramelize. Then add the eggplant and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant literally "melts" into the meat sauce.
- To make the Cheese Sauce: Melt butter in a heavy 2 quart saucepan then stir in flour and cook over moderate heat, stirring for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and slowly bring to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and mix until all the cheese has been incorporated into the sauce. Let the sauce cool a bit before adding the eggs. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and gradually add the cheese sauce , stirring to combine.
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, and then drain in a colander.
- To assemble: Toss half the pasta with the beef and eggplant ragout and half with the cheese sauce. Pour the pasta with the beef ragout into a 3 quart baking dish, spreading evenly. Pour the pasta with cheese sauce on top, spreading evenly.
- Bake at 375 degrees, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes, until bubbly and golden. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Baked Pasta
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