This dish is based loosely on classic pasta dishes of Naples and Sicily, but it uses quickly sauteed diced eggplant rather than fried eggplant slices. And you can easily adapt the recipe to fit whatever’s in your pantry at the moment.
- Olive oil spray
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 small purple eggplants, 1/2-inch dice
- 1 red pepper, 1/2-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28-oz can diced plum tomatoes with liquid
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained (optional)
- 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
- 1 zucchini, cut in chunks (optional)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
- pinch of black pepper (use red pepper, if you like spicier)
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 pound whole wheat penne
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
Put a large pot of water on to boil while you dice the vegetables. Toss in the penne when you’re ready to saute the vegetables; this sauce can be thrown together in about the time it takes to cook pasta al dente.
Spritz a large nonstick skillet with olive oil spray. Add the diced eggplant and saute quickly, stirring so the eggplant browns but doesn’t steam. Use another spritz of olive oil spray if needed.
Add the garlic and onion and saute for a minute, using another spritz of olive oil spray if needed. Next, add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to the skillet. Stir. If you’re using any of the optional ingredients – olives, capers, zucchini – add them last. Give the pot another good stir, cover and leave on low heat while you drain the pasta and place it in a large serving bowl.
Pour the hot sauce over pasta and toss quickly to combine. Sprinkle with parmesan and garnish with a few basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Suggestion: If you have fresh basil available, skip the dried and instead go for a fresh basil chiffonade instead. Stack 12-15 leaves and use a sharp knife to cut in thin ribbons. Add to the pot last, along with olives, capers and zucchini.