Showcasing seasonal eggplant, tomatoes, oregano and lemons from the garden, you’ll get layers of flavors in every bite. (Note: I used the 3 tablespoons of oregano recommended).
- 1 large (about 1 1/4 pounds/570 grams) eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
- Salt and black pepper
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 celery stalk, in a 1/4-inch dice
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces (225 grams) orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) vegetable stock
- 1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
- 4 ounces (115 grams) mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice
- 1.5 ounces (a generous 1/2 cup or 45 grams) parmesan, grated
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. I used this time to get the rest of my ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and once the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Add celery and carrots to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more.
- Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, fried eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.
- Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ratio of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.