If you typically don't like the texture of eggplant, this recipe might be just what you're looking for. Here, the eggplant is baked until soft, and stirred into a pasta sauce, with the end result being a smooth sauce that can be mixed in not just with plain pasta, but alternatively, used in lasagna or as a tasty pizza sauce. You can also liven up this dish by adding meatballs or chunks of Italian sausage.
1 large eggplant (or 2 Japanese eggplants)
Salt, to taste
Olive oil for frying
2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
5 tomatoes, chopped into large chunks
11 ounces (320 grams) penne pasta (or your favourite pasta shape)
3 ounces (80 grams) ricotta cheese
10 basil leaves, torn into small chunks
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
Wipe the eggplant clean and slice it/them in half lengthwise. With the tip of a knife, score the flesh deeply in a diamond cross-hatch pattern by making two or three long cuts, cutting at a steep angle, and then rotating the eggplant to make another set of similar cuts. Press on the edges of the halves to open the cuts and sprinkle salt over the surface and into the cuts. Set aside, cut side up, for 30 min. Preaheat oven to 400°F.
Over the sink, gently squeeze the eggplant(s) to extract the salty juice and wipe it/them dry with a paper towel. Brush each half thoroughly with olive oil. Place each half, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour. The eggplant will collapse and the bottoms will turn a deep brown caramel color. Let cool considerably before handling, at least 20 min.
In a medium-sized pot, sauté the (whole, squashed) garlic cloves until fragrant but not colored. Add the tomato chunks (they will spit and sizzle - watch out!) and about 1/2 cup of water, and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the tomatoes are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, and cook and drain the pasta.
Once the tomatoes have cooked 15 minutes, scrape the cooked eggplant out of its skin to mix it in with the tomato mixture. Add the torn basil leaves and the ricotta cheese. Remove pot from heat.
Use a potato masher or an immersion blender to make the sauce smoother, if desired - of leave it chunky if you like.
Add the pasta to the warm tomato sauce. Toss, over gentle heat, until the pasta is well coated. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
Recipe adapted from Food 52