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This baked eggplant pasta dish has been keeping client queuing at the door of Geneva's most successful popular Italian restaurant 15 years. Find out how you can milk the Sicilian cash cow for yourself.
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Dilute the tomato sauce with a glass of water if it has become too thick. Add the peppers and eggplants and mix well. Cover and keep hot.

Italian culinary orthodoxy commands to always discard crushed garlic fried in olive oil, because tradition says the garlic turns bitter when fried and the good part of the flavor is transferred to the oil already. It is true, and yet, at La Trattoria they leave large chunks of fried garlic in the pasta and the result is very pleasing, with bursts of browned garlicky flavor exploding in your mouth from time to time. Just make sure you don't let the garlic brown too much or it will be bitter. Just add the garlic you have reserved from the eggplant and tomato sauce preparation back into the finished sauce.

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Last but not least - the pasta. As you can see I used maccheroni where as La Trattoria uses penne. But mine are way better - I make them from scratch with free range eggs and semolina flour with a bronze extruder. You can use bought bronze-extruded pasta and obtain good results.

Fill the largest pot you own with water, add some salt but please do NOT add any oil. Boil your pasta until well undercooked. The pasta will continue to cook in the sauce and there is nothing worse than overcooked pasta.

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Use the best mozzarella you can find - it will really show in the finished dish. I used mozzarella from the local market, imported from Italy and stored in its own jar of whey. Dice the mozzarella and reserve.

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Mix the undercooked pasta with the sauce, add some finely chiselled basil and half the diced mozzarella and lay everything in a large, flat oven-proof dish.

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Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on top and bake in a hot oven until the mozzarella is well melted.

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Serve immediately!

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FXCUISINE VS LA TRATTORIA
How does my version compare to the original? Clearly the secret of La Trattoria's permanent success is not in the greasy eggplants or overcooked pasta. It is really the combination of all ingredients, melted mozzarella and fried garlic that makes it so memorable. I'm glad to say my version tastes better and is much, much lighter. Here is why:

  FXcuisine.com La Trattoria
Pasta Bronze extruded freshly made maccheroni from freerange eggs and semolina flour Bought overcooked penne
Eggplant Peeled eggplants fried in a moderate quantity of quality olive oil. Tasty and easy to digest. Unpeeled eggplants fried in a gallon of standard oil - very greasy and hard to digest.
Peppers Oven roasted, peeled & seeded peppers. No peppers (traditional recipes use peppers - this part is really optional).
Garlic Crushed and fried in olive oil, then removed when light brown and added back at the end. Mostly overfried and bitter.

Cook a dish like this in a restaurant and you'll be bankrupt in two months. As a home chef, I'm after great taste, but a smart restaurant owner like Antonio Porcedda of La Trattoria doesn't pursue the best taste at any cost. He wants long-term healthy cash flow. Frying eggplants in little oil just costs too many man-hours. And for all its greasiness La Trattoria's Penne Siciliana have been bringing me back for more for nearly 20 years.

Try the original at
La Trattoria
Rue de la Servette 1 (just behind the train station)
Geneva (Switzerland)
+41 (0) 22 734 52 19

Published 10/08/2007
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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!



20 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Katja
  • on: 13/08/2007
Hi Francois! Thank you so much for your site. I'm enjoying it for several months, and today will try this recipe. May I make a suggestion about the eggplants? Being fried, they really absorb too much oil. So I prefer to roast them in the oven, just like pepper. When they are ready, you cut them and mix with the garlic oil, or fry for a minute. What d'you think?And let me thank you again for lovely recipes, interesting stories and picturesque photos
  • #2
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 15/08/2007
Hello Katja, yes indeed roasting the eggplants in the oven is an idea, but it's a bit hard to get the pulp to keep its shape, it kind of turns to a pulp in my experience. But the name of the game is tasty eggplants with as little oil as possible, so if it works use it.
  • #3
  • Comment by Katja
  • on: 16/08/2007
Hi Francois,So I've done it! The meal was good enough (for the 1st time). And the eggplants were great. Just don't peel them before roasting; they will be ready a bit later than peppers (I checked the readiness with a toothpick). So it works.I'll be waiting for new interesting recipes from you! thanks  
  • #4
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 22/08/2007
Hey, FX. Watch out, the cosa nostra, will whack your oven.
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 24/08/2007
Thanks for your comments!
  • #6
  • Comment by Beatrice
  • on: 30/08/2007
Francois, I made an almost identical dish for years when I lived in California.  While mozzarella di buffala is a costly thing in the US, there is no substitute.  I could get lovely Asian eggplants and gorgeous peppers at the farmers market, but I followed the process often used in Greek cooking--slicing the eggplants, salting them, and letting them drain on paper towels to remove any possible bitterness.  Try roasting the peppers over a mesquite fire!
  • #7
  • Comment by Michele
  • on: 08/09/2007
Long-time reader, first-time poster. I made this the other night and it was fantastic. Something about the baking process really makes it special - it's not the same if you just spoon the sauce and eggplant over cooked pasta. For the record I modified it to include some sauteed mushrooms and omitted the meat in the tomato sauce. I live in Erfurt, Germany, but my partner is from Basel, so I "get" a lot of where you're coming from. There is an amazing dish that local Italian restaurants make in the winter here (and surely everywhere else): Pasta aus dem Laib or Pasta della Forma. They dump hot pasta into a gigantic cheese wheel right at your table and then scrape the hell out of it. My arteries can only take it about once a year but the presentation is fantastic, dotted with porcini and finished with truffle oil. Not exactly highbrow but a delight to watch and eat - I'd love to see you food blog that. Would be interesting to talk about how much the cheese wheels are worth, how they are sometimes held in escrow in Swiss banks instead of cash, etc.
  • #8
  • Comment by Richard
  • on: 11/04/2008
Hi Francois,

I cooked this tonight. It was super (and supper!). Many thanks.

Great tip for the Sausage/Salami in the tomato sauce. I got some Milan salami (local supermarket) and it worked very well. A bit different from pancetta and it added a nice earthy/rustic quality to the dish that pancetta would not have.

Only one thing though: you state 1000 gr of pasta for 6 people. I think you might want to stress this is fresh weight and that if using dried pasta you want to be using about half that. Otherwise it'd be a hell of a dinner for 6 people!!

Another fab dish. Keep 'em coming!
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/04/2008
Richard, thanks for trying this and glad it worked for your supper! Now I usually cook 1 kilogram of dried pasta for myself only, and when entertaining I never use less than 125gr of dried pasta per guest, which would work out like 725gr for 6, plus a little bit for the chef. You can definitely reheat this the next day in case you have a little too much.
  • #10
  • Comment by Richard
  • on: 14/04/2008
Hi Francois,

Agreed! It would make a generous meal, certainly. I used about 350gr of dried Penne and I still have a portion in the fridge. Today's lunch... marvellous!

I tend not to weigh the pasta and go by handfulls so it was a shock to see quite how much a Kg of Penne looked!

All the best

Richard
  • #11
  • Comment by ND
  • on: 02/06/2008
Hi Francois,

Thanks very much as always for the exquisite pictures & writing! It would really be great if you could offer some sage pasta advice, though—I've tried making my own pasta a few times (the first two times were a disaster, but I've had slightly better luck recently). In any case, I've looked through the recipes here, and I'm a little confused: should I be using only durum wheat semolina flour, or regular white flour with a little semolina added? Also, does the dough need a lot of kneading (funny how that works if you read it out loud…), or should I just be rolling everything into a big ball? Sorry for the obtuse questions, but I grew up a bit too far from Italy to know this stuff (really love good pasta, though).

—thanks!
  • #12
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 04/06/2008
Nathan, please don't dispair if your pasta doesn't work at first. Fine semolina flour makes harder pasta that keeps better through cooking, so I recommend you start by using only semolina flour. If you use a pasta machine you don't really need to knead all that much, just combine the ingredients. But if you do it with a rolling pin (doesn't that sound funny too?) then you need to knead for a solid 10 minutes. In both cases you have to leave the dough, well covered, to rest at least 30 minutes before you laminate it. Good luck and let me know how it works!
  • #13
  • Comment by caitlin
  • on: 18/06/2008
I LOVE the Trattoria's penne siciliana and I have seriously been trying to make this dish for about 3 years now and even tried last week without getting it right... I ended up carmelizing the eggplant in the oven. I think it has a deeper, richer flavour and I am happy with that. But I cannot get the combination or the sauce just right. Do you really think they add some sort of meat(i.e. salami, etc) to the sauce?? I have never added it...And also, don't you think they use more than 300g of mozz? Well, either way, I am definitely going to try it your way next!

  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 21/06/2008
Caitlin, I really don't know the actual recipe, the boss in this restaurant is such a curmudgeon, a legend in his own right, I think I'd end up in the next batch of his sauce if I so much as asked him how much mozzarella he uses. But probably no meat in the tomato sauce, that much I know.
  • #15
  • Comment by Herebus
  • on: 29/06/2008
Recipe was easy to follow and turned out fantastic.  The flavors were a little disjointed to start with, however after settling for 20 minutes, improved with out doubt.

Great tip on cooking eggplants and roasting Capsicums (Peppers) to remove the skin.  Oven roasted Capsicum is just heaven, the flesh is so rich.
It is very filling and makes heaps....and almost vegetarian.
I did not bother to salt the eggplant, so could have done with a little more salt.

Great website.
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/06/2008
Herebus I am glad the Sicilian Cash Cow delivered for you! The original is a bit on the greasy side but they don't add any meat, so you can make it fully vegetarian too.
  • #17
  • Comment by Matthew
  • on: 10/11/2009
i wish i could see a picture of the real dish to compare
btw i cooked this last night and my mother said it was her favorite thing i have ever made. much thanks
  • #18
  • Comment by Sher
  • on: 09/04/2010
I used to eat there all the time but the rude service got just too much. I've found another great version of it at l'etna in acacias. My other go-to italian place is chez remy in pacquis. Their scilliana is rubbish though.

I'm going to try this over the weekend, minus the meat.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Sher, indeed the service is not always palatable, but the food is out of this world. I now mainly eat take away from them.

  • #20
  • Comment by JoAnne Kamman
  • on: 08/06/2011
Love the two recipes I've looked at.  The photos are wonderful, and I loved the background on pasta alla norma (of COURSE I had download Maria Callas singing).  I'm telling all my foodie friends about this site - so happy I found it!  I like Food Network, but you take food to a whole new level!!!

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