Hereâ€™s a terrific non-meat dish for the Lenten Season (or any other time of the year). A quick check of the archives confirmed that I have never featured this incredibly simple and delicious pasta, so here it is. First cut several eggplants into roughly Â¾ inch cubes and spread them out on a baking pan and add generous amounts of olive oil and some salt and mix them and place them in a hot (375F) oven for some 20-25 minutes until slightly browned and cooked through. They wonâ€™t look so hot just yet, but donâ€™t fret. Just make sure they arenâ€™t undercooked and chewy.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water up to a boil, ready for the pasta. In another pan, add olive oil, some roughly chopped onions, a couple of cloves of garlic finely chopped, and sautÃ© until fragrant. Add a little splash of sherry vinegar to deglaze the pan, add say two tablespoons of tomato paste and mix well. Next, add several cups of chopped up whole tomatoes (Italian if possible), and stir over medium-high heat to reduce liquid slightly. Add salt and cracked black pepper and a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes if some spice is desired.
When the sauce has cooked for some 5-8 minutes, add the baked eggplant and stir gently to mix. Let this simmer for a minute or two longer. It should be a relatively thick sauce, but not dry by any means. Once the pasta (penne in this case) is ready, add the sauce, some cubed fresh buffala mozzarella and chopped fresh Italian parsley and fresh basil and serve immediately.
You can keep this vegetarian by omitting the cheese, but I like the addition of the cheese… We even serve it with grated parmesan on the side to add as desired. This is an incredibly simple, econmical and satisfying dish to prepare for a few or a lot of guests. This dish is traditionally made by frying the eggplant cubes, but I find that version gets a little too rich and oily. The baked version is less intense, brighter and lighter. If you can handle the extra carbs, serve with some good bread on the side, with some good butter of course. I have a funny feeling I am going to lose my weight loss bet with the Teen by March 9â€¦ :)