Eggplant and Penne with Bechamel Sauce - Greek Style

This is my version of moussaka.  Instead of layering the eggplant with the meat sauce, I decided to do a vegetarian version.  I took the eggplant and made a tomato base sauce with it.  Instead of the eggplant as the base of this dish (the layering), I used penne pasta.  Covered it with the bechamel sauce and mozzarella cheese and baked it in the oven.  It came out delicious.  

This could be quite an intimidating dish to make for the novice cook.  It's not that difficult, but one needs to be organized.  You can start by having all the ingredients on hand, before you even begin to make this dish.  Once all the ingredients are ready, you start making it without any difficulty following the instructions.  This dish takes me about two hours to make from start to finish.  An hour to prepare the sauce and assemble and an hour in the oven.  But I do have a couple of the elements on my stove burning at the same time.  While the sauce is simmering I boil the pasta.  Once the pasta is done and the sauce is almost there, I drain the pasta and begin on the bechamel sauce.  I pay full attention to the bechamel sauce.  I want it to be perfect without any lumps.  In the meantime, the sauce is off the hot stove and the pasta has drained well.  When the bechamel sauce is done, I begin the assembly.  And from there it's just baking it in the oven... and the one thing that all of us don't like to do, is washing and cleaning up all the pots and pans.  In the end, though, you have a wonderfully tasting good dish.  Serve it with a romaine lettuce salad, or a spinach salad.  it actually tastes good the next day too and packs well as lunch for work or school.  Just reheat in the microwave.    


Enjoy!!!   


Eggplant and Penne with Bechamel Sauce Greek Style         

Eight (8) servings (approximately 13 oz/per serving)

½ cup olive oil + 1/3 cup olive oil for the tomato sauce
½ cup chopped onion
1 tsp chopped garlic
4 cups diced eggplant
½ cup parsley
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 14.5 oz box of multi grain penne

Peel the eggplant, in stripes (1).  Rinse under cold water, pat it dry and dice it.  In a heavy saucepan, over high heat, add the ½ cup of olive oil.  Add the chopped onion and chopped garlic.  Sauté, until transparent.  Add the diced eggplant.  The eggplant will absorb all the oil.  Sauté until the eggplant is moistened with the oil (look at the picture below)  



Add the fresh-diced tomatoes, the chopped parsley, the canned diced tomatoes, the tomato sauce, and the extra 1/3 cup of olive oil.  Add the salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer until the eggplant is tender but not mushy (approximately 30-40 minutes) (See picture below).  Remove from heat. 



In the meantime, bring a big pot of water to a boil.  Add salt, if you prefer in the water (2), and then add the pasta (penne).  Cook according to the package directions.  When cooked, remove from heat, drain and rinse under cold water, if you added salt.  The rinsing will rinse the extra salt off the pasta but without leaving it bland.  Set aside.

Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I buy the part skim milk/low moisture mozzarella)

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, melt the 4 tbsp. butter.  Add the 4 tbsp. flour stirring constantly.  Gradually add the 2 cups of milk stirring constantly with a whisk.  Lower the heat to low and continue cooking and stirring to avoid any lumps (3).  Continue cooking over low heat until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat.  While still hot, add the 1 cup shredded mozzarella, and continue stirring with the whisk until the mozzarella melts and the sauce becomes velvety smooth.  Set aside. 
The Bechamel Sauce

The assembly
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
In a 13x9 (4) pan, layer half the pasta, then the eggplant/tomato sauce and then the rest of the pasta.  
The penne pasta layered with the eggplant tomato sauce

Pour the béchamel sauce on top, covering all the pasta. 


Bake in the oven for about one hour and a half or until it’s bubbly and the top golden brown.  Wait to cool a bit before serving. 
 Baked, out of the oven.  


Serve when cool.

Notes:

(1) When I peel an eggplant I don’t peel all the skin away.  I will peel it in stripes.  I will cut the stem first, then I will peel it lengthwise; leaving about half an inch of skin, peel another half inch, and so on.   
(2) Adding salt when boiling pasta.  I usually add 1 tsp of salt when I boil the pasta.  This way there is some flavor in the pasta.  Afterwards I rinse it in cold water.  Some of the salt will rinse off, but the flavor of the salt will stay with the pasta.  If you try to add salt after the pasta is cooked, it will not flavor it.  This is on individual tastes.
(3) If by any chance you get any lumps on the béchamel sauce, take a fine mesh strainer and pour the sauce through it, to another pot, while the strainer holds back any lumps.  Return to heat, and continue cooking and stirring, till it’s velvety smooth.  
(4)  The pan measurements are inside the pan.
(5) The nutrition facts below include the béchamel sauce.

Nutrition Facts (5)
Serving Size                                         1serving (355.9 g-approximately 13 oz)
Amount Per Serving
            Calories                                               563
Calories from Fat                                              307                              % Daily Value
Total Fat                                                           34.1g                           52%
Saturated Fat                                                   9.4g                             47%
Trans Fat                                                          0.0g
Cholesterol                                                       28mg                           9%
Sodium                                                             1009mg                       42%
Total Carbohydrates                                         58.1g                           19%
Dietary Fiber                                                     6.4g                             26%
Sugars                                                             9.1g
Protein                                                             12.8g

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