One of my most popular recipes at the moment is an aubergine pasta sauce. For a while, I had been making this dish for myself as a quick dinner when eating alone because whenever I suggested it to anyone they didn’t show any interest. Aubergines do not arouse any excitement it seems. Recently though, it seems to have caught on and I’m always being asked to make it.
The recipe below is mine, but adapted from three recipes. One is from the recipe book of the Walnut Tree Inn, from back when it was an excellent and highly regarded Italian restaurant, another from the River Cafe cook book, and the last is from Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking. I highly recommend all three.
Ingredients (for 2 hungry people)
- 250g pasta – fettucine or other flat pasta is good, wholewheat works well
- 1 aubergine, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1-2 chillis or dried chilli flakes (these work really well actually)
- 1 tin tomatoes, or equivalent amount of chopped fresh tomato
- Olive oil, quite a lot
- Salt, pepper
- Optional: fresh basil or coriander
- Optional: 1 ball of mozzarella, preferably buffalo mozzarella, torn or chopped into bite sized pieces
In a large saucepan heat the olive oil. The amount you use is at your discretion. At the very least, you need a good covering of the base of your pan, but considerably more is preferable. The reason is that later on the aubergine will soak a lot of it up. This is a good thing and a bad thing – it’s good because it’s delicious, but it’s bad because you run the risk of burning the aubergine if you’re not careful. More on that in a moment.
Soften the finely chopped onion in the oil. Now add the thinly sliced aubergine. It’s important to make these slices as thin as you can be bothered. I usually go for about pound coin thickness as a trade-off between effort and reward. At this point, you can also add the chilli or flakes. Cover this pan and cook, occasionally uncovering and stirring so it doesn’t stick and burn. You need to keep cooking until the aubergine is soft enough to eat. Taste it to check when you reach this point – it’s always important to do this at every stage of cooking anything actually.
Now add the tomatoes, turn up the heat and reduce until the sauce is thick and there is no loose liquid in the pan, but no further than this. Season to taste. Take it off the heat and add the herbs and cheeses and stir them in. Mix with the pasta and serve. You may have difficulty with the melted mozzarella going everywhere, but it’s all part of the fun.