There aren’t many things better than a warming, comforting, beefy meal, and I love these aubergine, courgette & mozzarella stacks because they bring about those feelings of comfort that we all love to get from food, while still being healthy. To quote Liam, ‘There’s nothing comforting about a slice of cucumber and a radish’. I have to agree, so it is sometimes good to find healthy food that gives you that feeling of satisfaction. This is one of those meals for me.
I find these stacks quite aesthetically pleasing, in the only kind of way that anything that oozes tomato sauce and cheese out of its sides can. If you look past that though, the orderly layers make them quite easy on the eyes. It is probably my love for order and rules that draws me to this. My mother loves to remind me that when I was younger I would line my crayons up so all the bottom edges were level with each other. Meals like this were made for people like me. But don’t worry, you don’t need a high level of obsessiveness about lines to assemble these, I just like to pretend I do.
One little note on assembly though: When scooping a big dollop of your scrumptious, fresh tomato sauce onto each layer of aubergine, just remember that you need some left for the top! The sauce will stretch that far, easily, but you might have to reel in your first estimation of sauce quantity. I find a dollop (maybe a tablespoon or so?) in the middle of each aubergine is plenty, as it will squish out towards the edge when you add the layers above.
The tomato sauce recipe seems to pop up in loads of meals in our kitchen. It is really robust, and you can always come back to it when you need a tomato sauce for anything else. I actually got the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s book ‘101 Great Breads’, where it is the sauce to top one of his pizza dough recipes. In the original recipe he adds 1 teaspoon of caster sugar though, which I have left out. I’ve made this sauce many times now, and I can honestly say it tastes great either way, so why add sugar when there is no need? Exactly…
I’m always for eating foods and meals with a far ranging set of health benefits, so the combination of the vegetables, tomato sauce and cheese here is a really great one. There are loads of antioxidants in the aubergine, courgette and tomatoes, as well as lots of fibre and low levels of saturated fat. In the cheese, there is actually a whole host of beneficial vitamins and minerals, and obviously calcium! I like getting my quota of fats from foods such as nuts and cheese, instead of naughty foods that also are also rammed full of processed rubbish and sugar.
These aubergine, courgette & mozzarella stacks will keep in the fridge for a few days. Liam and I like cooking these at the weekend and then saving some stacks in the fridge for really quick mid-week meal. Just preheat the oven, as below, and reheat for 15 minutes, until warmed through.
I hope you have as much fun making these as I did! ha!
Makes 6 stacks!
What you need:
2 smaller aubergines (see my ingredients picture) or 1 very large aubergine, cut into 18 equal slices. I think 2 smaller, rather squat aubergines works better because the circles you slice will be larger and more even!
1 large courgette, cut into approximately 18 equal slices
125g ball of mozzarella, ideally cut into 12 slices
Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan), for grating on the top of the stacks (you can get a vegetarian version of this cheese at health food stores, such as Holland & Barrett.)
For the tomato sauce (by Paul Hollywood):
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 x 400g tin plum/chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, to season
What you do:
First, get started with the tomato sauce, then prepare everything else while this is simmering away.
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the remaining tomato sauce ingredients. If using tinned plum tomatoes, break them up in the pan. Stir everything together and leave to simmer over a low-medium heat for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remember to remove the bay leaves before using the sauce.
Now prepare and cook the veg:
Slice the aubergine(s) across the width, into 18 slices, approximately 1cm thick (see image). Cut the courgette into 3 equal pieces, then slice each along the length into approximately 6 equal pieces (again, see image!) For each stack you need 3 slices of aubergine, and at least 3 slices of courgette (the number of courgette slices is not so important, as you can place multiple slices in each layer).
I find it helpful, now, to arrange the sliced aubergine and courgette into stacks. You can see how your slightly different-sized slices of veg will pair together. The order I like is: aubergine, 2x courgette, aubergine, 1x courgette, aubergine, at this stage.
Heat a skillet pan over a medium heat and place in it a stack-worth of veg slices. You can brush the slices with oil if you want, but I don’t. Cook on each side until slightly charred and cooked through. Make sure the pan is not TOO hot because the veg will char on the outside but not cook properly all the way through. Place on a couple of layers of kitchen roll to soak up any excess juices.
Preheat the oven to 220 C (200 C Fan).
Assemble your stacks! I photographed each step here, so you can see the order in which I assembled mine. I put them together in the oven dish so there is no unnecessary transportation before they are cooked. Aubergine, tomato sauce, courgette, mozzarella, aubergine, tomato sauce, courgette, mozzarella, aubergine, tomato sauce, Parmesan!
Place in the oven for approximately 12 – 15 minutes, until the stack is warmed through and the cheese on top is lovely and golden brown.
Serve with a salad. I just throw together whatever is in my fridge/cupboard – usually some green leaves, red pepper, red onion, cherry tomato and cucumber, with balsamic vinegar splashed over the top.
I hope you like these beefy little stacks just as much as we do.