Who needs meat when you have the bounty of summer produce? Today I’m happy to share a recipe I think would be amazing at a dinner party–or simply to make something nice for yourself on a quiet evening at home. Bring out the best in summer tomatoes and eggplants with fresh basil, garlic, and a bit of cheese.
When I first moved to my new place, I spent a lot of time watching Food Network (thanks to Food Network Humor) on my phone while was waiting on my internet to be installed. Ina Garten and her friend Antonia made this amazing-looking eggplant pasta–at least until they added 2 whole pounds of cheese.
Health concerns aside, I don’t even know where you can buy that much cheese in one place in Kanazawa. My policy is that a little flavorful cheese goes a long, long way, and in this recipe, I’ve reduced the amount cheese from 900 g (32 oz., 2 lbs) to 55 grams (1.95 oz, .12 lbs)–that’s a tiny fraction of the original! Japan-dwellers, I will recommend that you go to your nearest gourmet supermarket and get some nice Parmesan/Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano and some nice mozzarella, because it’s okay to treat yourself to nice cheese in Japan on payday. You have my permission! Hundred-grams blocks are more common and quite affordable if you can spread your cheese usage over several recipes.
For those of you living in rural areas: if you have local dairy, there’s a good chance you have local mozzarella at your co-op or gelato place (Malga Gelato, Noto) or winery (Noto Wine, Anamizu), or, barring such luck, several online import stores do have cheese you can order with a cooler pack. Failing that, you can use pizza cheese and grated cheese found at the grocery store. Other caveats: you will need fresh basil. I never had a problem buying basil at my rural supermarket, but I know some people who do. Lastly, I like to use a long, flat pasta like tagliatelle or fettuccine. You can use spaghetti if your options are limited.
This recipe makes a lot of pasta, but you can easily halve it if you live alone. I tend to assume my readers live alone or in pairs, as I did/do, so my yield is usually a lot smaller. What’s your living situation food-wise?
Summer Pasta with Eggplant Sauce
Adapted from Antonia Bellanca’s “Antonia’s Pasta Alle Melanzana (Eggplant Pasta) Recipe”
Time: 60 minutes
Calories: 392/serving (see below for full information)
2 TBSP olive oil (orîbu oiru, オリーブオイル)
30 g (2 TBSP) butter (batâ, バター)
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped (vidêria tamanegi, ヴィデーリアタナネギ) (the kind with yellow skin and white flesh)
3 medium eggplants (about 400 grams, 5 US cups), chopped and with the skin on (nasu, なす)
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled (ninniku, ニンニク)
12-15 fresh basil leaves or to taste (bajiru, バジル)
Sea salt, to taste (arajio, 粗塩)
10 to 15 mini tomatoes or 2-3 large tomatoes, ~400-500 g (tomato, トマト)
Coarse black pepper, to taste (koshô, 胡椒)
A pinch of sugar (satô, 砂糖)
500 g (1 lb) dry fettuccine (fettochinê, フェットチーネ)
35 g (1.2 oz) mozzarella, cut into 1/2-cubes or shredded (motsarea chîzu, モツァレラチーズ)
20 g (0.7 oz) grated Parmesan cheese (parumezan chîzu, パルメザン・チーズ)
A large pot
A large pan
A mesh sieve
Tongs or a slotted spoon
1. Set a medium pot of water to boil. Wash tomatoes and remove stem and leaves. When the water boils, add the tomatoes to the water. Blanch for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes soften and the skin splits and peels. Reserving the liquid to use for the pasta later, carefully remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon or tongs, and set aside in the colander to cool.
2. Heat the olive oil and the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and eggplant and cook gently over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant softens. (Add more oil if the eggplant absorbs too much of it to cook without burning.) Towards the end of cooking time, add the garlic cloves and half of the basil leaves.
3. Meanwhile, begin juicing the cooled tomatoes in the mesh sieve. Add the thin liquid from the first round of squeezing the tomatoes to the pan, then continue to push the pulp through the sieve until all that remains are seeds and the hard pulp. Add this liquid to the pan as well.
4. To the eggplant-tomato sauce, add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar. Continue to reduce for about 10 minutes.
5. Bring the reserved liquid back to a boil, and cook the noodles according to the package. Drain well and return to pot.
6. Reserve 1/3 of the eggplant pieces in a small bowl to use as garnish. Add the rest of the sauce to the noodles in the pot and toss to coat. Add the cheese and let it melt.
7. Garnish with the reserved eggplant and other half of the basil leaves. Serve hot.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container. This meal reheats well but the eggplant skin might stain the pasta purple in places.