Aubergine and Parmesan pesto was created with the intention of recreating the flavours found in an aubergine parmigiana, one of the Italy’s great comfort foods. Malloredus is also known as Sardinian gnocchi and is ideal for bakes as its size means that it mixes well with other ingredients. The flavour of the pesto also provides inspiration for the whole dish, layering up the pasta with the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, like you would with a parmigiana, to create something that is full of flavour but quick to put together.
Place a medium pan of salted water on a high heat, cover and bring to the boil. When boiling, add the malloredus and stir to prevent it sticking together. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes. It will be slightly undercooked but this necessary as it is going to be cooked again in the oven.
Heat your oven to 200C fan/220C non-fan. Chop the bacon into 1 cm strips, place a frying pan on a medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil, then add the bacon and fry. Stir to break up the bacon into pieces and cook for around 4-5 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked and crisp around the edges, remove from the pan and set aside for later.
Whilst the bacon is cooking, finely dice the onions and garlic. Once the bacon is cooked add the remaining olive oil to the pan then add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir to coat with oil. Keep on a fairly high heat as you want the onions to caramelise and turn a golden colour. If the pan looks dry, then add some more olive oil and if they are darkening too quickly then turn the heat down. They are ready when they are soft and sweet, around 12 minutes.
While the onions and pasta are cooking, halve the cherry tomatoes and cut the mozzarella into roughly 1cm thick slices.
Drain the pasta but then place back in the pan it was cooked. Add the pesto, bacon and onions, season with pepper and stir to coat the pasta. Taste then add more salt and pepper if you feel necessary.
You will need a deep 20-25 cm oven proof dish to assemble everything. Add around half of the pasta to the bottom of the dish, then scatter half of the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil on top and season with salt and pepper. Now add the remaining pasta and top with remaining cherry tomatoes and mozzarella and season with salt and pepper again. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the mozzarella on the surface has melted and the pasta has begun to colour.
Remove from the oven and top with the remaining basil, roughly chopped.