Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake


I have no idea how it took me almost a week to write about this eggplant-y mozzarella infused yumminess, because I was obsessed with it.

Quick Tomato Sauce

  • 1 medium onion
  • leaves fresh basil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a 2-3 qt. saucepan. When it shimmers, add the diced onion, stirring occasionally. If you see browning, turn the heat down a little. After 5 minutes, add the garlic, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be translucent (about 10 minutes total).
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes (and yes, I do swish a little water around in the can to get all that goodness out, thanks Mom). Stir well to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to low heat and simmer the sauce for about 15-20 minutes. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste; if it still has a raw tomato taste, cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Otherwise, you’re just about done, and can add the basil now; if you don’t have it on hand, use any combination of dried spices that tickle your fancy. Turn the heat off, and leave it on the stove for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. This will just make the basil (or spices) nice and fragrant. You’ve now got a pot of quick, yummy tomato sauce – enjoy!


  • 1 Pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups), divided
  • 4 cup Quick Tomato Sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggplants (about 3 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 0.25 cup dry white wine
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 1.125 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese (4 ounces), divided
  1. Arrange two racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees; it’s a good time to use convection if you have it. Cover two half-sheet pans with heavy duty aluminum foil (I don’t like scraping off roasty bits of eggplant from a pan, and you probably don’t either).
  2. Divide the eggplant between the two sheets, overlapping where necessary (they won’t fit otherwise), and drizzle the oil over the eggplant; season with salt and pepper, and don’t freak out if the eggplant overlaps here and there. Pop the sheet pans in the oven and roast until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often until softened and translucent, ~8 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Stir in the saffron, then the wine, and cook for about a minute, or until the wine reduces a bit. Add the water and season the rice with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is very al dente, about 7 minutes (recipe originally said 6 minutes but I went slightly over, and the final product was great!)
  4. Layering, step-by-step: Cover the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish with 1 cup of tomato sauce, Sprinkle 1/3 of mozzarella around, then 1/3 of grated cheese, Layer the pan in eggplant rounds, overlapping so you can’t see the sauce (about half the eggplant), Add saffron rice (all of it), spreading it so it covers the eggplant, Sprinkle another 1/3 of mozzarella, then another 1/3 of grated cheese, Spread ½ of the remaining tomato sauce over that layer, Layer the remaining eggplant, rounds, Top with remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella and grated cheese.
  5. Cover the baking dish with foil and transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet (don’t skip the baking sheet, for real, take my word for it and don’t make my mistakes). Bake until sauce is all bubbly, cheese is melted, and your house smells insane, or about 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes longer. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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