aubergine al forno with 'nduja
 
 

serves 6, hands-on time 30 min, oven time 25-30 min

If not serving straightaway, cool the sauce and grilled aubergines, then assemble, cover and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours until ready to bake.

To make the dish suitable for vegetarians, omit the 'nduja and add 1 tsp chilli flakes in step 1.

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp 'nduja (we used Natoora, from Ocado; or use 50g spicy cooking chorizo, chopped)
3 large or 4 small aubergines
Large bunch fresh basil
1 - 2 tsp sugar
½ lemon
200g smoked mozzarella (or use regular mozzarella)
100g grana padano cheese, grated
100g shelled hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

YOU'LL ALSO NEED...
1 litre ovenproof baking dish

Heat the grill to high. Put the 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic in a pan and warm gently for 1-2 minutes to infuse the oil with the garlic flavour. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and 'nduja, season with salt and pepper, then simmer on a low-medium heat for 20-25 minutes until thick and reduced.

Cut the aubergines lengthways into 0.5cm thick slices and lay them out on 2 baking sheets. Brush well on both sides with olive oil, then grill for 4-5 minutes until browned (some char is good here, so don't worry if they catch a little at the edges). Turn and grill on the other side until tender and browned. Set aside and repeat with the second tray.

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

Roughly chop half the basil and stir into the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning and add the sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice as needed.

Spread a spoonful of the tomato sauce over the base of the dish, then add a layer of aubergine slices. Add more tomato sauce, then scatter over a third of the mozzarella, a third of the grana padano and some chopped hazelnuts. Add another layer of aubergine slices, tomato sauce, half the remaining cheeses and some nuts, then finish with a layer of aubergine slices, tomato sauce and the rest of the cheeses (see Make Ahead).

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then scatter over any remaining hazelnuts and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then serve scattered with the rest of the basil, alongside some fresh cooked pasta, or as a side dish for roast meat.

per serving: 369kcals, 27.8g fat (10g saturated), 17g protein, 10g carbs (9.2g sugars), 0.7g salt, 5.7g fibre

wine editor's choice: Good with a citrussy white such as sauvignon blanc but even better served up with a soft, rounded, cherryish pinot noir.