Before we get to this wonderful Pasta and Eggplant recipe let’s first discuss a little bit of Italy …
Despite its tiny size, Italy has a number of disparately different climates. That’s good for growing specific food crops in each of the climates. Climates range from desert hot in Sicily in the south to mountainous cold in Torino in the north. Regional dishes like Pasta and Eggplant are deeply influenced by Italy’s various climates.
One common example of this geographic difference is the more common use of olive oil in the southern part of the country and butter and cream in the north. Olive trees need long, warm, dry seasons to produce abundant amounts of quality olives which are then pressed for their oil. Cows need land and a whole lot of grass to make milk. Sicily has little of either. But in the Northern mountainous regions bordering Switzerland there’s more land area and plenty of grasses. This local availability of crops translates to local availability of quality ingredients in each area.
While there are many subtle and not so subtle differences in ingredients and recipes throughout the twenty regions of Italy there are many common and authentic techniques that are prevalent throughout. One of them is browning or sautéing. Americans are more apt to sauté or broil something lightly. And most Italians enjoy a much darker, crunchier finished product. Pasta in Italy is invariably prepared just before serving, not cooked in advance and then reheated. Most of Italy enjoys its pasta al dente or extra firm. And Americans have been conditioned to eat pasta that is soft and mushy. Not very authentic and a true crime in my opinion.
Here’s an authentic, simple and unforgettable Pasta and Eggplant recipe. They’re perfect for the Sicilian harvest season since the eggplants in this recipe are grown there. And yes, you could substitute.
Pasta and Eggplant (very crunchy) – A recipe for 4
- Baby Sicilian Eggplants – 6 the size of your fist
- Olive Oil
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Partially peel and then cut the eggplants in half.
Spray eggplants with olive oil on both sides and grill them under a high heat until they are very dark brown, almost burnt.
Mash eggplants together in a bowl with two large cloves of finely chopped garlic, more olive oil, sea salt to taste, and black pepper.
Cook 1 lb. of thick linguini extra firm, or al dente, drain, add to the eggplant mix and toss well until all the pasta is covered in oil and eggplant.
Serve your Pasta and Eggplant dish immediately and top with Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese.
This process shouldn’t take more than one half hour from when you start peeling the eggplants to sitting down with your favorite glass of extra cold white wine with your finished Pasta and Eggplant dish.
Start by heating the pasta water while you grill the eggplants. By pairing specific dishes, like Pasta and Eggplant, with the best locations of crops, like eggplant (in this case, Sicilian eggplant), insures that the ingredients and flavors are optimal. By the time the eggplants are crispy golden brown the water is boiling and ready for the pasta.
Remember to cook your pasta at least several minutes less than the pasta box directions call for. The pasta manufacturers assume Americans prefer their pasta softer.
Don’t be fooled. Pasta is at its nuttiest and tastiest best when extra firm or al dente.
Another version of Pasta and Eggplant calls for topping it with ample amounts of room temperature Marinara Sauce which every Italian has in the refrigerator and Pecorino Romano Cheese instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Yet another incredible version of Pasta and Eggplant is to add large dollops of warmed ricotta AND Marinara Sauce to it, stirring lightly in the serving dish.
I say try it all three ways . . . this is authentic Pasta and Eggplant at its finest!
Entrepreneur and Raconteur. Has taken Kyle Phillips (former Principle/Blogger for the About.com
Guide to Italian Food) to task on several supposedly “authentic” Italian recipes.