This delicious dish was my pick for I Heart Cooking Clubs theme of the week: Peasant Food. Pasta is so inexpensive and easy to store in the pantry that it is always on hand at my house. Sometimes I go a little crazy buying fun shapes or fancy imported pastas, but for this dish I used good ole rigatoni that you can find at any supermarket; and, just maybe, right in your own pantry :)
The kicker that really makes this dish "peasant food" is that the eggplant was free since it was from my garden!! Now, take the word garden lightly here, this was actually my first year planting any vegetables, and I just had a few plants in a small area next to my back porch. The kids were excited to plant the vegetable plants and loved harvesting our teeny tiny crop. Our very first garden consisted of one zucchini plant, one summer squash plant, two eggplant plants (only one of which produced), one acorn squash plant, and one jalapeno pepper plant -- that only produced one unedible gnarly little pepper. Anyway, it was a fun experience, along with our first herb garden which we also planted this year, and we will probably try gardening again next spring. On to the recipe...
Penne Rigatoni with Tomato, Eggplant, and Ricotta
Tessa Kiros -- Apples for Jam
1 small eggplant
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled and squashed a bit
1- 14 ounce can tomatoes
3/4 of 1 - 16 ounce package of penne (I used rigatoni)
1/4 cup salted mature ricotta or finely grated parmesan cheese (I used 1/2 cup of regular ricotta, I can never find the hard ricotta, ricotta salata I believe it is called, and this is peasant food, right? so I used what was on hand even though it changed the recipe a little)
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (thank you, herb garden!)
Cut the eggplant into slices about 1/4 inch thick and about 1 inch across. Toss them into a colander, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and leave them for about 40 minutes to drain off any bitter juices.
Heat half the olive oil with the garlic clove in a smallish pan over medium low heat until you can just smell the garlic. Add the tomatoes and season with some salt and pepper. When it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until it all melts into a sauce. Break up any bits of tomato with a wooden spoon as you stir. Keep warm.
Rinse and drain the eggplant pieces and pat them dry with paper towels. Heat the remaining oil in a nonstick frying pan (I used my electric wok) and saute the eggplant over medium heat until it is crusty and golden in places on the outside but still soft inside.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water, following the package instructions. Drain, keeping a cup full of the water.
Put the paste in a large serving bowl. Add the eggplant, the tomato sauce, cheese, and parsley and mix together thoroughly, adding some of the pasta cooking water in the pasta seems dry. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
I made this for lunch one day when my four year old and picky husband were home. I absolutely loved it, I think it is a wonderful recipe and would make it again for sure, and use extra eggplant since that was my favorite part. The eggplant was amazing, I don't know if it was because it was homegrown or the preparation but this was the tastiest eggplant ever, and I adore eggplant! My four year old liked this but didn't love it. I was very surprised picky husband was even game for trying this one, he hates most pasta but I think he was trying to be nice, anyway, he is not an eggplant fan, but said that this was the best eggplant. He did not like the pasta...oh-well. If you like pasta and eggplant, this is a winner recipe for sure :)