It started off as a lasagne but the layers were too much effort!
Preheat oven to 180C.
Cut the eggplant into thick slices, spread out on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 10 minutes then turn the slices over and repeat on other side.
Rinse off the salt, pat dry, and spread slices on baking paper on a tray. Spray with olive oil and bake until slightly golden, then turn over and repeat. Remove from oven and let cool, then chop into rough chunks.
Heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick frypan, toss in the onions and garlic and fry until slightly opaque. Add the carrot and celery, stir to combine, and fry until soft.
Stir in the chicken stock and wine, bring to the boil for 2 minutes then reduce to simmer. Add the chopped eggplant, stir to combine and cook 10-15 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, pepper, basil, oregano, cumin and bay leaf; stir to combine and bring to boil again, adding water if needed. Taste it now and add more salt if necessary. Reduce to simmer and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water and drain, but keep back a small amount of the liquid.
Add tomato paste to the mixture, stir through, then toss in the wet pasta and combine well. Transfer to a greased baking dish and level off.
Topping: in a bowl combine the ricotta, 1c of the parmesan, the beaten eggs and nutmeg and mix well. Spread it over the tomato mixture, sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top and bake at 180C until the topping is bubbling and golden (usually about 30-45 minutes).
Always sweat the onions and garlic; you'll rarely need to add more salt later on.
The eggplant can be peeled if desired. It can also be baked in advance and refrigerated or even kept frozen (if there's a glut) until required.
Any pasta can be used in this dish; in the past I've made it with shells, rigatoni and bowtie.
The water is used as needed purely as a thinner if the mixture gets too sticky during cooking.
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