1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large can of whole peeled tomatoes
3 garlic cloves chopped finely
3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
a splash of red wine (optional)
1 teaspoon of hot chilly flakes (optional)
a handful of fresh torn basil leaves (Lina grows her own and if she can manage this, believe me, anyone with an empty pickle jar can too. Kids like to nibble on it when helping to make dinner, and it comes in handy all the time.)
1 pound of pasta (we used fresh homemade linguine here, but you can use whatever you have or prefer, of course)
Parmesan or pecorino cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, for the pasta.
While this heats up, sauté the chopped shallot and garlic (and chili flakes) over low heat for a couple of minutes until soft, in a wide, shallow sauce pan.
Eggplant, three options:
Next, you can add the eggplant to the pan, season well, and toss for a couple minutes in the garlic, shallot and oil. (This is my favorite version, because it's fastest and gives off the tangiest flavor, which I love).
OR, you can instead heat your oven to 425 degrees, toss the eggplant cubes with olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking sheet, and roast for the next 30 minutes before adding to the sauce at the end. This gives a milder, almost sweeter, slightly caramelized, roasted flavor to the eggplant which is delicious, but in my view, for a rushed weeknight meal, unnecessary. (It's Monday, is it not?!)
The third option here is to fry up the eggplant in an inch of olive oil in a separate pan, then drain well on paper towel and add to the sauce at the end. This gives a great crunch and warm gooey, tasty inside to the eggplant; in other words, prefect texture, but it requires more work. More oil. More attention. (More opportunity to burn and mess up dinner, mind you, as well). And more dishes. You catch my drift. (Again, it's Monday.)
Wether you have sautéed the eggplant in the garlic and oil a few minutes (for about 4 to 5) , or are cooking it separately at this point, add the tomatoes and wine to the sauce pot, stir, season again and simmer with lid on, over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes.
(My grandmother, who I cooked with daily as a kid, always added a pinch of sugar when cooking tomato sauce, to cut the acidity. You can do this if you wish; for me, it's second nature but it's optional of course.)
Meanwhile, cook your pasta until al dente.
Once your sauce is assembled and well mixed, eggplant and all, plop pasta right into the sauce pan with tongs, without straining too, too thoroughly, as the starchy water it cooked it brings flavor to the sauce. (You don't want to make it soupy!) Stir well to combine, over low heat, another minute or two.
Serve immediately with torn basil right onto and lots of fresh grated cheese of on top, and enjoy!