2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chopped fresh or canned (drained) plum tomatoes (about 10 medium size)
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
TO LINE THE MOLD
3 large eggplants (each at least 11 inches long)
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/2 pound bucatini or spaghetti, broken into thirds
1 pound ground veal or pork
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups cubed fresh mozzarella (fior di latte) cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup peanut or canola oil for frying
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
Cut off and discard the stems of the eggplants. Slice it lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Layer and salt the slices in a colander set over a bowl. Place a large bowl of water on top of the slices to act as a weight. Allow the slices to "sweat" for at least 1 hour to remove the excess water. Then rinse and dry the slices.
Butter a 9 x 3 1/2-inch deep springform pan and coat the inside evenly with the 1/2 cup bread crumbs. Shake out the excess crumbs and refrigerate the pan until ready to fill. To make the sauce: In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook, stirring, the onions, carrot, and celery until they soften. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens. Stir in the tomatoes, red wine, and bay leaf. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Remove the bay leaf before using.
Cook the bucatini until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.
In a medium-size bowl, combine the veal, egg, wine, 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese, bread crumbs, and salt. Mix gently to just combine the ingredients.
Form marble-sized meatballs with your hands. Heat the butter in a large sauté pan and fry the meatballs until browned on all sides. Transfer the meatballs to the bowl with the bucatini. Add the mozzarella, parsley, and 2 cups of the tomato sauce. Stir to combine the ingredients well and set aside.
Rinse and pat dry the eggplant slices. Heat the peanut oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant slices a few at a time until they soften, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain the slices on brown paper. Use additional oil if the pan seems dry.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Line the pan with the eggplant slices, draping them lengthwise and overlapping them up the sides of the pan. There should be about a 3-inch overhang over the top edges. Make sure there are no open spots in the base of the pan it should be completely lined with the slices. Fill in the bottom with smaller pieces if you need to.
Spoon the bucatini mixture evenly in the pan, packing it down with a wooden spoon all the way around. Fold the overhanging slices of eggplant in over the top of the pan; the mixture should be completely encased by the eggplant.
Spread 1/2 cup of the remaining tomato sauce over the top of the mold and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes.
When the timballo shrinks a bit along the sides and a knife will easily move along the sides, remove it from the oven and let stand covered for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil from the timballo and run a butter knife around the inside edges to loosen it. Un-latch and remove the side. Place the timballo on a serving dish. Cut the timballo into wedges and serve with additional sauce on the side.
Caution: un-latching the timballo too soon will cause it to collapse.
This recipe was featured on show 1618 - Pugliese Cheeses.
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