This is a simple dish to make, and the leftovers are fantastic. We even put the last of the sauce on some ciabatta toast for an impromptu snack with our martinis last night! The eggplant retains enough shape that the texture is wonderful.
Tomato Sauce Extra-virgin olive oil 1 sweet onion, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced ½-1 cup dry white wine 1 can (28 ounce) chopped tomatoes (try to use good quality -- it does make a difference) ½ teaspoon dried thyme* ½ teaspoon dried basil* ½ teaspoon dried oregano* Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste) ½ cup freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano
Eggplant 2 ½ lb. eggplant, half peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes (the skin adds flavor) 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced ½-1 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt
1 pound dried linguini
Heat on medium a pot large enough to hold the sauce, spaghetti and eggplant. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions soften. Add the garlic and turn the heat down to medium-low (burned garlic is bitter and not very pleasant). Stir every few minutes until the garlic has softened. Add the wine and turn up the heat to medium-high, stirring to deglaze whatever may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme, basil and oregano to taste. Not too much, because the predominant flavor of this dish is eggplant. Stir a bit to hydrate the herbs and then add the tomatoes. Stir again to mix everything together, then reduce the heat to medium-low, just enough for a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, then cover and turn off the heat.
Start heating the pasta water!
Meanwhile, heat your biggest non-stick pan as hot as you can get it. Add a bit of olive oil and then the diced eggplant and a teaspoon or so of salt. Toss it occasionally while adding more olive oil until the eggplant is lightly coated. Be careful; eggplant is a sponge! The goal is to evaporate some of the water from the eggplant while browning it in the oil. Yes, it is messy, and it will take some time, but the results are worthwhile. After a few minutes, add the minced garlic. Now is also a good time to start cooking the linguine. Keep tossing the eggplant as it browns. You will probably have to reduce the heat to medium as the eggplant gives up moisture and begins to brown in the oil. It will get softer and break up as it cooks. Don’t worry, it’s going to get thrown into the tomato sauce anyway. When it is nicely browned, dump everything into the tomato sauce (If you didn’t use a non-stick pan, just dump the sauce into the eggplant and deglaze the pan with the sauce). Add the grated cheese, stir to combine, and allow it to rest until the pasta is done.
Drain the linguine, reserving a bit of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thick. Add the pasta to the sauce pot and toss to combine. Serve with a bit of extra grated cheese for garnish. It doesn’t need it for flavor, but it does look good. And there is never anything wrong with extra cheese.
* Fresh herbs are great (especially basil) if you have them, but dried works well.
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