by Amanda Callahan
Cooking eggplant well and pairing it with pasta hides the texture and highlights this adaptable vegetable. I love using the long purple variety; I find it less bitter and the skin is tasty, too, as long as it is cooked enough.
If you use the larger, Black Beauty variety, one tip to make it more palatable is to slice it in circles, lightly salt each one, stack them up and let them hang out together for about 20 minutes. This method seasons the eggplant, and the water that seeps out supposedly carries away any bitterness.
A note on the tomatoes: every year, I enjoy dehydrating tomato slices to use in sauces, salads, and even seasoned as “tomato chips” throughout the year. I’ve used them here. You can sub a jar of sun dried tomatoes from the store, but you can also roast cherry tomato halves in an oven for about thirty minutes, too!
- 1 pound long purple eggplant, cut into ½-inch slices
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to finish
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme or oregano, chopped
- 1 cup stock or water
- 1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti
- Handful of dehydrated tomatoes, chopped OR 4 sun dried tomatoes from a jar OR handful of roasted cherry tomatoes
- 6 to 10 leaves of basil, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pour the oil into a wide, heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and cook over low heat. It will take a few minutes to smell the aroma and hear the sizzle.
- When you smell and hear it, drop in your eggplant slices and herbs, and stir to combine. Turn up the heat to medium-high, add salt and pepper and stir. When the eggplant starts to turn translucent and soften, add the liquid and let it come to a boil. Turn it back down to low. Let it bubble for a bit. Stir once in a while, so the bottom doesn’t stick.
- While the eggplant is softening, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, check on the eggplant. The liquid should be mostly absorbed or reduced after about 20 minutes of cooking. Once it is fully soft, mash it up with a spoon or potato masher, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes, half of the basil, and season again if needed.
- Drain the pasta and toss with the eggplant sauce. Serve with basil, crushed red pepper, Parmesan cheese or a little more oil!