Italian Cuisine.

Eggplant Parmigiana – Olive Garden Style.

Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti.
Eggplant Parmesan with spaghetti.

This has always been a personal favourite of my husband`s and mine especially at the Olive Garden.  It`s always a pleasure to consume the freshly fried crisp pieces of eggplant, fragrant with the aromas of bread crumbs and herbs, soaked in a warm bed of marinara sauce all placed on a heap of softly cooked angel hair or spaghetti. Many times, you would want to recreate the magic at the restaurant, in our very own kitchens. Tonight was one such effort as my husband had bought this amazingly soft Japanese Eggplant from the whole foods store.

All the recipes that  I had watched on food tv more or less required the eggplant to be dredged in an egg wash and then soaked in a pile of bread crumbs and then fried.  I wanted to leave out the egg wash as well as the frying part. So I had to rehash it and make my own recipe based on my knowledge of baking and cooking. I have to mention here, that the end result was astounding!!! It was even better than  the one at Olive Garden, as I had sucessfully recreated the taste sans the eggs and the extra oil from frying!!!

I used fresh ingredients today – Fresh italian flat leaf parsley and fresh strands of thyme. There is definitely a difference cooking with fresh herbs and I am not able to get back to my refridgerated dry herbs. Also when I am putting in a lot of effort in the vegetable, I did not want to start making my own sauce. So I used store bought marinara – this one is really a beauty – Pastorelli’s  Garden Marinara.


One Japanese Eggplant.

Small springs of fresh thyme.

Italian Parsley chopped.

Garden Marinana Sauce – 3 cups.



Dried Basil.

Bread Crumbs made from a day old bread.

3 spoons of rice flour dissolved in 1/2 cup pf water.

2 spoons of flax powder.


  • Preheat the oven to 300 F. Pulse 3 bread slices in your mixer and pop it in a tray and toast it in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Take out and allow to cool.
  • Add salt, flax powder,freshly chopped parsley , freshly chopped thyme and ground pepper and mix it in to the bread crumbs well. Save some of the herbs for later.
Bread crumbs and herbs,.
Bread crumbs and herbs,.
  • Slice the eggplant cross-section in to little circles of about 1 inch width and place them all on a single row on a greased baking tray.
  • Season the eggplants with salt, pepper and basil ON BOTH SIDES after spraying oil on them. This helps the herbs to stick to the eggplants.
  • Preheat the oven to 400F  and roast the eggplants fr about 13-15 minutes depending on the strength of the oven. The eggplants need to be well done.
  • Dissolve the rice flour in to the water and season that also with a little salt and pepper.
  • Line the bread crumbs and the rice flour mix next to each other.
  • Dredge the roasted eggplants in the rice flour mix and then let it sink in to the bread crumbs. Continue with all the eggplant pieces.
Eggplants dredged with herbed bread crumbs .
Eggplants dredged with herbed bread crumbs .
  • Line them again on the tray and bake covered with a foil at 400 F for about 20 minutes. Remove and keep aside.
  • Cook the spaghetti for about 12 minutes as per the instructions on the cover. Keep aside.
  • Take a oven proof dish and line it first with the marinana sauce.
  • Arrange all the roasted eggplants in a single row and then top again with the marinana sauce till they are covered.
  • Add chopped fresh parsley and thyme and sprinkle parmesan cheese and a little of part skim mozzarella.
Eggplant and marinara sauce with cheese drizzled on top.
Eggplant and marinara sauce with cheese drizzled on top.
  • Bake covered with foil for another 20 minutes.
  • Serve the baked eggplants on a bed of spaghetti and serve HOT!!!
  • I make a smaller portion for my husband`s lunch the next day. All it needs is a few minutes in the microwave oven and its as good as out of the oven!!!
  • Here is an amazing dinner with almost no oil, no eggs, only healthy wheat pasta and roasted eggplants.
Rotis/ Parathas/ Flatbreads.

Paneer Onions and Herbs Rolls.

Freshly baked fragrant bread...
Freshly baked fragrant bread...

The art of Bread Making has been something of a dream for me. I always loved the smell of freshly baked break whenever I entered a bakery. There is something comforting in those aromas…Freshly baked bread, sweet fragrance of fruit cake baking in the oven, the stirring aroma of freshly brewed coffee, lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice,  the scent of pouring rain on parched soil, the aroma of christmas pine, and the list goes on and on…

I always wanted to “bake my own bread’…If you dont mind my expression. Personalising the flavours in the bread brings forth a lot of options on the creativity…There are a variety of forms of bread – pretzels, dinner rolls, ciabatta, sourdough,croissants, bagels, buns and so on and so forth. There are delicate differences in each of them in taste, form, texture and usage. Today I was browsing through Aparna`s site at MyDiverseKitchen and came across the Paneer Dill Onion Rolls.  I rehashed it to exclude the Dill as many times the flavour of dill tends to overpower over the others. I substituted the recipe with Herbs De Provence and my home was almost fragrant like Pizza Hut!!!  There was a lot of basics that I need to learn like what was yeast, how it works and how does it help in the process of bread making. The original recipe had no  eggs, which suited me just fine.

The most important ingredient for bread making is yeast. The primary function of yeast is to supply carbon dioxide gas which inflates the dough during proof and the early stages of baking. Yeast works by consuming sugar and excreting carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts. In bread making, yeast has three major roles. Most of us are familiar with yeast’s leavening ability. But you may not be aware that fermentation helps to strengthen and develop gluten in dough and also contributes to incredible flavors in bread.

Yeast and Honey - Basic Ingredients for Bread Making.
Yeast and Honey - Basic Ingredients for Bread Making.


1 cup all purpose flour.

1 tsp clover honey.

1 cup whole wheat flour.

1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast.

1/2 cup warm milk.

1 onion chopped in to tiny pieces.

1/2 cup grated or crumbled panneer.

1 tsp of parsley and oregano.

1 tsp old fashioned oats or flax seed powder.

1/2 tsp salt.


  • Warm the milk in the microwave for 30-40 seconds and dissolve the yeast and honey in the milk. In about 4-5 minutes, it will begin to froth, and this shows that the yeast is still active.
  • In a mixing bowl, take the flours, and add onions, herbs, crumbled paneer, oats,salt and mix it in to a smooth elastic dough with the warmed milk.
  • If required add a little more water and make a smooth dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and keep it covered allow to rise till double in oil.
Allowing to rise...
Allowing to rise...
  • Remove the dough and place on a working surface. Gently deflate the dough and divide in to 6 balls. Roughly shape in to rolls and place on a  cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to about 350 F and bake for 30 minutes or until the rolls are brown. Serve with a brushing of melted butter.
Italian Cuisine.

Penne Pasta & Roasted Vegetables in Quick White Sauce.

Penne Pasta with veggies in white sauce.
Penne Pasta with veggies in white sauce.

My forays in to italian cooking are definitely inspired by Giada Laurentis of foodtv fame, but I have my own methods and madness of cooking up a storm here. I always like to start with a lot of veggies as I am always looking at ways to compensate the body`s requirement of fibre, iron etc, that might not form a part of our regular south indian cooking. I dont have a fixed recipe in the mind when I begin, but some how as I chop the vegetables, somewhere in the back of my mind, there are instructions and my hands fluidly follow them…

Today I knew that hubby dear would come home ravenous, and I need to give him a filling dinner with a lot of vegetables. I looked at the vegetables that I had to start my pasta…Yes I did have the Whole Wheat Penne, as I had already tried the angel hair pasta the last time and well, in my opinion penne is a lot more easier to pick wth a fork!!! I would have appreciated butternut squash or my all time favourite – zucchinni, but I had to make do with what I had…Onions, carrots, peppers and hey I had some fresh mushrooms. I still had some leftover Italian flat leaf parsley from two weeks back, which I had saved in a ziploc, rolled tightly in a soft fresh tissue towel. I also felt like using cilantro today, although I knew that was distinctly “Not Italian”!!!

The instructions would definitely “seem” a little winding and long, but its definitely a quick dish to make, once you get a hang of things.Don`t worry about the ingredients – You could make do, even if you have one or two of them missing.


1 pound of Whole Wheat Pasta. ( I used the one with the extra fibredsc002161

1 Onion sliced thin and long.

1 green pepper sliced.

1 carrot sliced thin and long.

12-13 Mushrooms sliced.

Small Bunch of Itlain Parsleychopped. (Optionally use dried parsley)

3 spoons of Part Skim Ricotta Cheese.

2 spoons of Part Skim Cream Cheese.

1 spoon of Light Sour Cream.

1 spoon of dried basil.

1 spoon of dried oregano.

A pinch of nutmeg.

Salt & Pepper.

1 spoon of butter.

Mozzarella Cheese to top.


  • Saute the vegetables and mushroom very lightly for 2 mins in a spoon of butter. This enhances the flavour of the vegetables and the mushroom.  This step is optional and can be omitted.
  • Line a baking sheet with oil spray and add all the sliced veggies and mushrooms. Sprinkle salt and pepper sufficiently and some of the chopped parsley and dried basil.
Veggied with parsley, basil and pepper ready to get roasted.
Veggies with parsley, basil and pepper ready to get roasted.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F and pop it in to the oven to roast for ten  minutes or until the veggies are roasted and soft. Pull out and keep aside.
  • In a wide mouthed container add enough water to allow the pasta to drown and cook for 12 mins or according to the instruction on the pasta container, along with  1 spoon of salt.
  • When its cooked almost 70% drain out the pasta and save one cup of the pasta water.
  • In a cup mix the ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sour cream and add some chopped cilantro and chopped parsley.
  • Into the baking dish containing the roasted veggies, add the hot pasta, dried basil, dried oregano and a pinch of nutmeg  and the cheese mixture.
  • Mix well so the cheese will slowly melt in the heat of the pasta. If you find that its too dry, add 1/2 cup of pasta water and mix the vegetables, the pasta and the cheese sauce.
  • Add more salt or pepper if you deem it necessary.
Mozzarella Cheese sprinkled over the pasta before baking.
Mozzarella Cheese sprinkled over the pasta before baking.
  • Sprinkle part skim grated mozzarella cheese over the pasta and pop it again in the oven covered with a foil sheet  for about 1o minutes at 350F.
  • Bake for another 5 minutes with the foil removed.
  • Serve simmering Hot pasta to your family and enjoy the fragrance of the cheese sauce, herbs and veggies.