The recipes in my repertoire have all come about in a couple of different ways. Some are the surprisingly good results of throwing together whatever I have in my fridge, while others are born in an attempt to imitate something I've tried in a restaurant, and still others are created, I've realized, out of pure laziness. That's right -- despite the fact that I pride myself on making elaborate layer cakes from scratch, homemade bread, and homemade gelato, there are times when I don't mind taking a shortcut or two. This recipe was born out of a craving for melanzane alla parmigiana, i.e layers of fried eggplant with tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, and basil. Don't get me wrong, I had every intention of making this dish -- all the ingredients were ready in my fridge -- but after a particularly long day at work I wasn't quite in the mood for slicing and salting 2 pounds of eggplant, waiting the necessary 30 minutes to prevent bitterness, plus frying said eggplant, not to mention making tomato sauce, grating cheese, assembling it all...you get the idea -- it's a time consuming dish.
In the end I made a sort of melanzane alla parmigiana pasta, which requires half the effort but still has the flavors that I was craving. Just chop and saute' a few ingredients to make your sauce, let the sauce simmer while you cook the rigatoni, toss everything together, and voila', a dish with the ingredients of melanzane alla parmigiana, plus the addition of pasta, which makes everything better. Not a bad compromise, is it?
I came up with this recipe two years or so ago now, and it has become one of my staple dishes -- besides being super easy to make, it takes advantage of great summer ingredients like tomatoes and basil, packs a flavor punch, and is my go to recipe for the many vegetarian friends I have here. Enjoy everyone!
RIGATONI WITH EGGPLANT, TOMATOES, AND MOZZARELLA
1 lb rigatoni pasta
1 small eggplant, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 (28 oz can) crushed tomatoes
1 (4 oz) ball buffalo mozzarella, cut into small pieces
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a good amount of olive oil (good amount because the eggplant tends to absorb a lot of oil) and saute' the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and onion until all of the vegetables are softened and cooked throughout, stirring often. Add more olive oil as you go if necessary. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Next, add the white wine and let it evaporate and cook down, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring everything to a bubble -- let the sauce cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the sauce continue to cook. Meanwhile, put the water on to boil for the pasta, following the package directions. While the pasta and sauce cook, chop up some basil (however much you want). Drain the pasta. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Add the pasta to the sauce, and throw in the basil and mozzarella cheese. Toss everything together and serve immediately, garnished with an extra basil leaf or two if you want. Serves 4-6.