I kid you not. It's made with eggplant and it's gray, soggy and really boring looking.
But remember that old adage: don't let appearances fool you. You cook this eggplant in olive oil with some garlic and a little stock and then mash it into a sauce. And OMG, the flavor! Silky, garlicky, eggplanty and luscious with oil. You add a bit of fresh basil, salt, pepper and dried tomatoes at the end just to brighten things up. I gobbled it down before even thinking of grating some Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, but you can if you insist.
I'm ahead of the game because I really LIKE eggplant. But a lot of people don't. This particular recipe came from food writer Francis Lam who wasn't an eggplant fan either and, in his own inimitable way, had this to say about eggplant:
"It’s not always easy to deal with eggplant. It’s a fussy creature, finicky and unpredictable. It can be horrifyingly bitter if you get it when it’s overmature and seedy. It can soak up grease with the gusto of a ShamWow. But the oily, gray, lifeless, and utterly delicious eggplant I had at a neighborhood place in Rome inspired me to rethink my treatment and relationship with the stuff. Why fight the eggplant and try to get neat, seared cubes? Let it be what it wants to be! Let it turn to mush!"
So he's a convert...and you will be too after you make this very simple Italian peasant dish.
Pasta with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Sauce
Recipe from HERE and HERE.
1 pound eggplant, cut into ½ inch slices, leave the skin on
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
2 springs thyme, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes*, minced
6 leaves basil, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper
1 pound spaghetti
Lightly salt the slices of eggplant, stack them back together and let sit for 20 minutes.
Put the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat. Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks.
When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat it all with oil. Turn up the heat a little bit to medium high and add the thyme and stir. When the eggplant is turning translucent and softening, add the liquid, let it come to a boil, and turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while so that the bottom doesn’t stick.
After about 20 minutes or so, the liquid in the eggplant pan should be mostly evaporated and the eggplant should be soft and melting. Mash it with a fork or spoon, and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Toss the eggplant purée with the spaghetti that you cooked al dente. Stir in the minced tomatoes and basil. Serve immediately.
Serves 3 or 4.
*I used some left over roasted tomatoes I'd had for lunch. Never made oven roasted tomatoes? Here's how. Easy peasy.
Take 12 plum tomatoes, cut them in half and remove most of the seeds. Place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper, some minced garlic, some balsalmic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Bake in a 275° oven for about 2 hours. Cool.
And the salad I had for lunch? I made it with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and these delicious roasted tomatoes with a bit more balsamic and EVOO on top. Yum.