Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
Roasted eggplant pulls double duty in this fall pasta, a non-traditional riff on either pasta alla norma (baked pasta with fried eggplant, tomatoes and ricotta salata) or eggplant parmesan (breaded and fried eggplant under tomato sauce), depending on which way you want to look at it. Some of the eggplants are scooped out and mashed into a light, quick sauce, while crisped rounds are added whole to the finished dish.
Many recipes call for peeling eggplant ahead of time, but Japanese eggplants (the long skinny ones) have a thinner skin that crisps up and chars nicely when roasted, so keeping them on makes for a nice flavor and textural contrast. (But go ahead and peel them if you prefer.) The simplicity of the recipe also makes an ideal base for adding spicy sausage, roast garlic or some sort of dark greens, like kale or broccoli rabe, if you’ve got those on hand too.
For the wine pairing, there’s a lot of room to move around. You’ll want to look for something with good acidity and bright fruit flavors. A Carmenère from Chile was a little too heavy, but a Nero d’Avola from Sicily did especially well: bold enough not to disappear against the tomatoes, but with enough acidity to brighten the velvety sauce. This dish is also light enough to pair with whites, if so inclined. We liked the Cantine Silvestri Frascati Superiore 2009, which seemed to get even more appley with the dish.
Pair with a Nero d’Avola from Sicily such as Altadonna Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2009 (87 points, $12)
Total Time: 40 minutes
Approximate Food Cost: $20
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cut the globe eggplants in half, brush the cut side with cooking oil, season with salt and place cut-side up on a baking sheet. Cut the Japanese eggplants into slices 1/4-inch thick, coat with cooking oil, season with salt and add them to the baking sheet. Cut the plum tomatoes in half, coat with cooking oil, season with salt, and add them to the baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the eggplants have begun to turn brown. Remove from the oven to cool.
2. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it begins to shimmer, add the bread crumbs and cook until they begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Remove the bread crumbs to a bowl and let cool.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package’s instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.
4. Scoop the meat from the globe eggplants and mash lightly with a fork. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the meat from the globe eggplants, the roast tomato halves and around 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to let the sauce come together, while mashing lightly with a spoon or fork. (The sauce should have a rustic, chunky texture.) Adjust the seasoning with salt, then add the pasta and stir to coat. Cook for an additional minute, turn off the heat and add the additional roast eggplant. Serve in bowls and top with the bread crumbs and crumbled ricotta salata, to taste. Serves 4.
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