Quick and easy peperonata-inspired pasta bake
I LOVE the flavours of eggplant, tomatoes and garlic, especially with pasta. Unfortunately, this adoration isn’t always shared (I’m pretty sure this applies to kids as well), but yesterday I had a brainwave to get my food buddy on side. Grilled crispy cheese. I’d make the sauce, with inspiration from this fantastic recipe by chez pim. Then I’d mix it with cooked pasta, top it with cheese and breadcrumbs, and lob it under the grill for 2 minutes. I couldn’t wait.
Unfortunately, the photo leaves much to be desired, as I burnt the cheese topping and there really is no way to shoot that without making it very obvious that I left it under the grill two minutes too long.
Tomato eggplant and garlic pasta bake
generously serves 2, or 4 as a side.
1 small/medium eggplant, quartered lengthways and sliced into 1cm thick bits
1 can peeled tomatoes (use whole if cheaper)
1 onion, chopped
4-5 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dry oregano and basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or a finely chopped clove of garlic)
250g pasta (any except long pasta)
salt and pepper
olive oil/cooking oil
dash of red wine vinegar (optional) – use white vinegar if red wine vinegar is unavailable.
50g cheese, grated
Heat 4 Tbs oil in a large frying pan on high heat, and add onions, pinch salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Let cook for about 2 mins before flipping. Put pasta on to cook with water and salt. Whilst cooking, drain juice from tomatoes into a small saucepan, and heat on medium low heat setting, letting simmer. Poke the tomatoes to get as much juice into the saucepan as possible, then set your sieve/drainer over a bowl and let juice drip into it.
Flip the eggplant and onions, stirring. Keep cooking (you may want to cover to speed up this process) until the eggplant is soft and squishy, and has gone an almost translucent, brown colour. Add any tomato juices from the bowl and garlic, and reduce heat to medium. Let cook for another 2 mins. The tomato juice in the saucepan should be thickened – add the tomatoes from the sieve, cutting roughly with a knife. Add a dash of red wine vinegar, garlic powder, a pinch or two of oregano, and let come to a simmer before turning off heat. Uncover eggplant mixture if covered, add tomato sauce from saucepan. Preheat grill to 200C or 400F. Mix pasta and sauce, then taste, adding salt or pepper if required. Drain pasta, and immediately add to pan with eggplant and tomatoes.
Throw pasta with sauce into a deep baking dish, and top with the breadcrumbs roughly mixed with the grated cheese (you can do this on a chopping board to save washing another bowl). Leave under the grill for about 2 minutes, until the cheese is golden. Be very careful not to burn it like I did!
This makes a complete dinner on its own, which is great as your don’t have to worry about any other side dishes.