Monday, September 10, 2012

Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Eggplant and Mozzarella

Some vegetables can be used year-round with similar results, like carrots and beets. Others are special; they must be eaten at their peak because they just don't taste the same out of season. Eggplant, I feel, is special and meant to be used in summer and summer only. I have, in my impatience, made the mistake of buying winter eggplant before....Ok, more than once. I have always found it to be disappointingly tough and mushy.

So when I found some awesome white eggplants at the Farmer's Market, I knew just what to do with them. There's this Jamie Oliver recipe I pinned on Pinterest quite a while back to my Summer Food board. (It's from Leite's Culinaria, an amazing website where famous chefs give you all sorts of cool recipes from their newest cookbooks for free. In other words, a very, very good idea - check it out!) 
Jamie describes this dish as one he ate many times while on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and I could almost picture myself there as I ate it. Easy, unfussy, and ooey-gooey good, the sum of this recipe was greater than the total of its parts. As a bonus, it also helped me use some of my endlessly prolific basil, plus garlic and padron peppers from the garden. Nice one, Jamie! (Serves 6 generously.)
Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Eggplant and Mozzarella
By Jamie Oliver, From Jamie's Dinners

1 firm ripe pink, black, or white eggplant
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
Two 14-ounce cans good-quality plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 fresh or dried chilies, chopped or crumbled, optional
Bunch fresh basil, leaves ripped and stalks sliced
4 tablespoons heavy cream (I used half-and-half)
1 pound rigatoni or penne (I used whole wheat rigatoni)
7 ounces cow’s-milk mozzarella
1 piece Parmesan cheese, for grating

1. Remove both ends of the eggplant and slice it into 1/2 inch slices, then slice these across and finely dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but I don’t really do this unless I’m dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. This dish is really best made using a firm silky one. 2. Now, put a large saucepan on the heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. When it’s hot, add the cubes of eggplant, and as soon as they hit the pan stir them around with a spoon so they are delicately coated with the oil and not soaked on one side only. Cook for about 7 or 8 minutes on a medium heat.
3. Then add the garlic and onion. When they have a little color, add the canned tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. Stir around and season carefully with salt and pepper. At this point, if you wanted to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chilli, but that’s up to you. Add the basil stalks, and simmer the sauce nice and gently for around 15 minutes, then add the cream.
4. While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta, cook according to the package instructions until it is soft but still holding its shape, then drain it, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle of olive oil and move it around so it becomes almost dressed with the water and oil.
5. At this point add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta. By now the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy tomatoey pulp, which is just yum yum yum! Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper. When all my guests are sitting round the table, I take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the fresh basil, and fold these in nicely for 30 seconds. Then very quickly serve into bowls. By the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have started to melt and will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting. Just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. Serve at the table with a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater so that everyone can help themselves.


  1. This kind of pasta recipe is so classic, and obviously for good reason! I could eat things like this practically every day. :)

  2. Since I have an eggplant in my fridge that I wasn't quite sure what to do with, this is perfect. Thanks! You have a fun blog here. :)

  3. You are the second person I've seen write about white eggplant recently. I must try it. 'Tis the season. I just made my first Baingan Bharta, but my eggplant was purple.

  4. Did you like the Bharta? I made it recently too, but wasn't a big fan of how it turned out. If you have a good recipe, do pass it along!

  5. Yes, I liked it. I used this recipe:

  6. mmmmm so yummy!!
    I invite you to follow my blog on, hope that yyou like it!! You'll be always welcome in! kisses


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