Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree

I wanted to make a pasta dish that had sauce different from pesto, marinara, or bolognese, and Giada de Laurentiis’s healthy eggplant-based sauce sounded interesting!  The original recipe calls for mint instead of basil, but I thought basil would pair better with a protein.  I picked shrimp for this dish, but I think chicken would go just as well.

Here is the recipe as adapted from Giada’s.  If you want to eat this with meat, simply cook your meat through separately, cut into bite size pieces, and mix it in with the pasta and sauce.  I sauteed a pound of shrimp in a little oil, salt, and pepper and added it in during step 5.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni pasta
  • 1 cup mushrooms, stems removed and cut in half
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves, plus a couple extra, slivered, to finish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.

    Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water (salty like the ocean!) to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but a bit under done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta but reserve 2 cups or so of the cooking water.
  4. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor or blender. Add the torn basil leaves, mushrooms*, and additional 3 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until almost smooth.

    Ready to Pulverize
  5. Return the pasta to the cooking pot, pour sauce over it and about 1/2 cup of cooking water and cook together over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing occasionally to coat pasta evenly. Add more pasta cooking water a little at a time if needed to loosen the sauce.
  6. Transfer pasta and sauce to a serving bowl; garnish with extra herbs, pine nuts and parm, and serve.

*The original recipe didn’t call for mushrooms, but I had bought a package to throw in a vegetable soup and had some left over.  I had meant to roast them with the eggplant and tomatoes but forgot. I threw them in raw, and they soaked up all the sauce-y goodness once pureed, and cooked enough in step 5.  The mushrooms added a nice earthy compliment to the sauce, but simply omit if mushrooms aren’t your thing!

You can easily make this vegan by forgoing the cheese.

This was earthy and delicious!  I made this the first time a few months ago, while you could still get local eggplant and tomatoes.  I made this again recently, and the produce was from South America.  I didn’t enjoy it as much the second time around, as I think all that distance traveled to get to me made a difference in the taste.  I can’t wait for summer eggplant and tomato season to come around when eggplant and tomatoes are in their peak!!

Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree
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