Eggplant Pasticcio (Pasticcio de Melanzane)

2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4" slices
Salt

Sprinkle eggplant slices generously with salt. Stand up in a colander and allow to drain for at least 30 min. Rinse well and pat very dry on towels.

All-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup water

Crisco oil

Dip well dried eggplant slices into all purpose flour. Shake off excess flour. Dip flour coated eggplant into the beaten egg and allow the excess egg to drip off of it. Fry in Crisco oil until very lightly cooked to a golden color. Drain very well on paper towels.

1 recipe Paolo's Basic Tomato Sauce
1 recipe of béchamel sauce, made on the thin side; recipe follows.
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups grated parmesan or romano cheese

In a large Pyrex baking pan, spread 1/2 cup of the basic tomato sauce. place a single layer of the fried eggplant to completely cover the bottom of the dish. Lightly scatter this layer with more tomato sauce, then the thinned out Béchamel sauce (go light on this sauce...just a light splattering is sufficient), then lightly sprinkle with both cheeses. Repeat the process until all the eggplant is used....ending with a smooth layer of the Béchamel...then a light sprinkling of the Parmesan cheese only. At this point you can either refrigerate or freeze the casserole.

Bake at 350°F for about 45 min. if taken straight from the refrigerator....a little longer if still frozen. Dish is ready when it starts to bubble and should appear a little "puffy". Allow casserole to rest for about 20 minutes before cutting into "lasagna-like" portions. Pass extra sauce and Parmesan cheese at the table.
This freezes well; any leftover sauce can be frozen, also.

This recipe was the Thursday lunch special at Ristorante Pastore in New Orleans.....it sold out every week.....most people called ahead to reserve their portion!! I KNOW you're gonna love it!!

Basic Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/2 qt. whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Heat milk to the boiling; set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in flour and cook three minutes. Stir constantly with a wire whisk. Slowly whisk in hot milk, salt and nutmeg. Cook over med-low heat for about 5-8 min. until thickened. If too thick add more boiled milk to reach the desired consistency.

Paolo's Basic Tomato Sauce:
6 large cans (28 oz.) whole Italian Plum tomatoes, peeled and crushed with your hands!!
1 heaping spoonful of Chicken Soup Base (optional)

15-20 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 large onion, chopped
4 Tbs. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper (I use lemon-pepper...SURPRISE!)
2 bay leaves
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. dried oregano (optional)
He doesn't use this, but I do.
2 cups water (use this to rinse out the tomato cans and add to the sauce)

In a large 5-6 qt. Dutch oven...
Sauté the chopped onion and garlic in the oil until softened and onions are transparent. Add all remaining ingredients. Simmer over a low flame for at least 2 hours.

Source of recipe: ChiquiEggplant Pasticcio - Pasticcio de Melanza