The hubby says I’ve been hitting it out of the ballpark with eggplant lately. High praise from someone who, until recently, didn’t like eggplant much.
My latest endeavor was a recipe recommended by my friend Leslie, who is an amazing cook. Since I just tried an easy eggplant pasta a couple of weeks ago, I was skeptical that this would live up to the effort required, but it absolutely did. Besides, we keep getting assorted eggplant in our CSA box, and we have to use it somehow! This is definitely my favorite use yet, by far.
It took a long time to put together, but it wasn’t hard, and it was totally worth the wait. I started cooking after Nora went to bed on Friday evening, and we didn’t eat until 9-ish, which is kind of late for us. I’d say it took almost 2 hours, start to finish, but there was plenty of non-active baking time (aka wine sippin’ time), and the first time I make a recipe is always the slowest.
The flavor of the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant together was delicious, the sauce was creamy, and the just-browned cheese held it all together beautifully. Best of all, this dish used tons of basil from our garden, plus the rest of a carton of cream I already had in the fridge, as well as all the eggplant from our CSA box (plus a few leftover from the last one), several sweet peppers from the backyard, and all of the Sun Gold tomatoes that had ripened on the vines.
The best part of all, though? Lots of leftovers! It reheated well, too, which isn’t always the case with cream sauce. Nora chowed down, and the hubby and I had to eat fast to get our fill before she stole it off our plates. This is a must-try!
- 1 large eggplant or several smaller ones (1½ to 1¾ lbs), cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2-3 sweet peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch squares
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves, divided
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves, divided
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 lb rigatoni
- 12 oz shredded mozzarella
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray or brush a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and spread the eggplant and peppers evenly. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and add to the baking sheet. Using a garlic press, squeeze 1 garlic clove onto the vegetables. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast the vegetables until tender, stirring a couple of times, 35 to 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine ⅔ cup basil, ½ cup Parmesan, the pine nuts, and 1 garlic clove in a mini processor. Blend until crumbly. Season with salt.
- Blend the tomatoes with their juice, the cream, the remaining 1⅓ cups basil, and 1 garlic clove in a blender or food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook the pasta in pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
- Toss with the roasted vegetables, sauce, and the remaining ½ cup Parmesan. Transfer to a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and pine nut topping.
- Bake the pasta until heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, 25 to 30 minutes.