Friday, July 20, 2007

Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant and Mozzarella

I hope I get this into Ruth in time! I'll type like the wind!

For this week's Presto Pasta Night, I went to the lovely Jamie Oliver. (To be honest, I think I went though every cookbook I had, looking for interesting eggplant recipes - Jamie won.) This recipe can be found in his Family Dinners book, which I love. This particular cookbook is really useful for sneaking extra vegetables into meals, and I like the stealth factor. With our CSA this summer, its been a great resource for using up all these extra veggies!!

I will admit, I cheated a little. I used one can of diced tomatoes and one crushed. (One for me, one for Dave), and I really liked the added sauciness. The eggplant melted down and turned creamy, which was divine. I used a hot pepper from our porch (I can't remember the name of it), rather than dried - though I'm sure dried would be lovely. As his recipe suggests, the mozzarella melted beautifully and was nice and gooey.

This pasta meal reheated nicely, made a great lunch. I highly recommend it, and I'll absolutely make this again if we get more eggplant in our CSA.

Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant and Mozzarella
From Jamie’s Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook

1 firm ripe pink, black or white eggplant
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 14 oz. cans of good-quality plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
optional: 1-2 fresh or dried chillies, chopped or crumbled
a bunch or fresh basil, leaves ripped and stalks sliced
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 lb rigatoni or penne
7 oz cow’s milk mozzarella
1 piece of Parmesan cheese, for grating

Remove both ends of the eggplant and slice it into ½ inch slices, then slice these across and finely dice into ½ inch cubes. Some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but I don’t really do this unless I’m dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. This dish is really best made using a firm silky one.

Now put a large saucepan on the heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. When it’s hot, add the cubes of eggplant, and as soon as they hit the pan, stir them around with a spoon so they are delicately coated with the oil and not soaked on one side only. Cook for about 7 or 8 minutes on a medium heat. Then add the garlic and onion. When they have a little color, add the canned tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. Stir around and season carefully with salt and pepper. At this point, if you wanted to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chilli, but that’s up to you. Add the basil stalks, and simmer the sauce nice and gently for around 15 minutes, then add the cream.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until it is soft but still holding its shape, then drain it, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle of olive oil and move it around so it becomes almost dressed with the water and oil.

At this point add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta. By now the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy tomatoey pulp, which is just yum yum yum! (Jamie’s words) Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper. When all my guests are sitting around the table, I take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the fresh basil, and fold these in nicely for 30 seconds. Then very quickly serve into bowls. By the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have started to melt and will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting. Just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. Serve at the table with a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater so that everyone can help themselves.


Deborah said...

I have been seeing so many eggplant recipes lately - and yours looks wonderful!

Ruth Daniels said...

I love Jamie Oliver, I love eggplant and like you I have to sneak it into dishes. So double thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Holler said...

That is just what I am in the mood for!

Margarita Valli said...

Only one thing to say about this dish....MMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!

Kate said...

I did a recent vegetable dish that included an eggplant that became all creamy like that and it was so delicious. I may just have to try this one too. Eggplant used to be one of those 'arched eyebrow' vegetables to me, but lately I find I am changing my mind about it.