Another beautiful bunch of eggplants from my Front Porch Pickings basket. One of the beautiful things about getting this basket (aside from the obvious fact that it is local, seasonal and fresh) is that variety is find of forced on you. For example, I love eggplant, but the rest of the family doesn't. Oh they eat it if I put an eggplant recipe on the menu, but it gets the cold shoulder. Couple that with my mission of a different dinner every night, I get to enjoy veggies I like in new ways. This recipe is one of those. I loved my dinner. (it had just a smidge too much garlic and heat for a perfect dish but easily tweaked and totally tasty as is) I loved the fact that this recipe made the eggplant unrecognizable to my son whose attitude toward one of my favorite veggies is hostile. We did the ingredient guessing game and he got all but eggplant. The 1/4" dice made the eggplant break down into a sauce by the end of the cooking process. I had Roma tomatoes I needed to use, so I used them instead of the juicer globe tomatoes. It made for a drier sauce, but that was easily fixed by adding extra pasta cooking water. I had an open box of tri color rotini, but other than that and the Roma tomatoes, I made no deviations. It wasn't one of the prettier dishes, but it delivered on taste.
Penne With Eggplant, Tomato & Basil
1/4 c plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil,more for drizzling
1 medium eggplant (1 lb.),cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 6 cups)
1 small red onion,thinly sliced
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes more to taste
1 -1/4 lb. tomatoes,seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 medium cloves garlic,finely chopped
1 c roughly chopped fresh basil
3/4 lb dried penne rigate
1/2 c coarsely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or ricotta salata
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until
shimmering hot. Add the eggplant and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce
the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the
eggplant is tender and light golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to
a plate. Reduce the heat to medium, return the pan to the stove, and
add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, the onion, red pepper flakes, and a pinch
of salt. Cook until the onion is tender and golden brown, about 6
minutes. Add the tomatoes and another pinch of salt, and cook until the
tomatoes start to break down and form a sauce, about 3 minutes. Add the
garlic and cook for 1 minute. Return the eggplant to the pan, add the
basil, and cook for 1 minute more to let the flavors meld. Taste the
sauce and add salt if needed.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Reserve a small
amount of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Put the pasta in a
large bowl and toss with the eggplant mixture. If the pasta needs a
little more moisture, add a splash of the pasta water. Taste and add
salt if needed. Put the pasta on a platter or divide among shallow
bowls and finish with a drizzle of oil. Sprinkle the Parmigiano or
ricotta salata on top and serve immediately.