Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake

Happy Fall!  What a great time of year.  The days are getting cooler and shorter, but not cold, and it’s still light when I leave work. This is DC’s weather sweet spot, the best time to live in this area. Thankfully tourist season is over, or they would probably never leave!

I am not sure why this dish jumped out at me from the latest Bon Appetit, but I am so glad it did.  It’s a warm, filling one pot meal, but the flavors are really exceptional. Slightly lansagna-esque, but with a twist.  This would be an excellent vegetarian main course, served with a simple side salad.  Even if you don’t like eggplant, I would recommend giving it a try! The directions are long, but it’s pretty easy to pull together.

Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake

from Bon Appetit

  • 2 tbsp plus 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large eggplants (about 3 pounds), cut crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds ( I used a mandolin and it was super easy!)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups store-bought tomato sauce (such as marinara), divided
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups), divided
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan (4 ounces), divided
  • Chopped basil, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.

Using a mandolin, or a very sharp knife, slice eggplant into 1/8 in rounds.  This is slightly thinner than the original recipe. Divide eggplant between two baking sheets, overlapping slightly to fit. Drizzle 1 cup oil over; season with salt and pepper. Bake, turning eggplant and rotating sheets halfway through, until tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

While the eggplant roasts, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in saffron, then wine. Cook until wine reduces slightly, about 1 minute. Add broth; season with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until rice is very al dente and still crunchy, about 6 minutes; remove pan from heat.

Assemble the casserole in a 9×13 baking dish.  Here is the assembly order, from bottom to top:

  • 1 cup marinara
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the parmesan
  • ½ the eggplant rounds, overlapping so no sauce or cheese is visible
  • The entire rice mixture, spread evenly
  • 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the parmesan
  • 1 cup marinara
  • ½ the eggplant rounds, overlapping so no sauce or cheese is visible
  • 1 cup marinara
  • The remaining 1/3 of the cheeses

Cover dish with foil and place on a baking sheet.  It might bubble over, so this will keep your oven clean!  Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Uncover dish and bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes longer. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to set before serving. Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.


3 thoughts on “Eggplant, Mozzarella and Saffron Rice Bake

  1. This looks absolutely fantastic! I can’t wait to try it. Just a quick question – Did you mean to bake the eggplant twice in the prep?

    • Thank you for pointing that out! It was a editing problem on my part. You only roast the eggplant once, and then cook it again in the casserole. Appreciate the heads up!

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