This is a dish I’ve had many times in Italy, on the Amalfi coast. It’s one of those dishes that tastes like home — it’s comfort food, and it makes you feel good. The interesting thing about it is that the cow’s-milk mozzarella is torn up and thrown in at the last minute so that when you dig your spoon in you get melted, stringy bits of it — a real joy to eat. You can eat this as soon as it’s made, or you can put it all into a baking pan with a little cheese grated on top and reheat it as a baked pasta dish the next day, if you wish.–Jamie Oliver
LC Just One Pot (Sorta) Note
We love that this jumble of pasta and tomatoes and ooey gooey cheese comes together in a single pot. Although actually, if you do the math, it’s two pots. But to us, it makes sense to use a ginormous saucepan for the sauce. Then when the time comes, we can add the pasta to it and toss with wild abandon, which means the pot used to cook the pasta almost sorta fades into the background, it’s so easy to clean. Right? Right??!!
Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella Recipe
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 35 minutes | Serves 4
- 1 firm ripe pink, black, or white eggplant
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- Two 14-ounce cans good-quality plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 fresh or dried chiles, chopped or crumbled (optional)
- 1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves ripped, sprigs sliced
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 pound rigatoni or penne
- 7 ounces cow’s-milk mozzarella
- 1 piece Parmesan cheese, for grating
- 1. Trim both ends of the eggplant and slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Chop the slices into 1/2-inch dice. (Some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but I don’t really do this unless I’m dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. This dish is really best made using a firm, silky one.)
- 2. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant and as soon as it hits the pan stir with a spoon so the pieces become delicately coated with the oil on all sides and not soaked on just a single side. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 or 8 minutes.
- 3. Add the garlic and onion and cook, still stirring occasionally, until they take on a little color. Add the tomatoes and vinegar, stir them around, and season with salt and pepper. At this point, if you want to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chille, but that’s up to you. Add the basil sprigs and simmer the sauce nice and gently for about 15 minutes. By this time the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy, tomatoe-y pulp, which is just yum yum yum! If desired, fish out the basil sprigs. Stir in the cream.
- 4. Meanwhile, while the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, or until it’s soft but still holding its shape. Drain the pasta, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle olive oil and move it around so it becomes sorta dressed with the water and oil.
- 5. At this point, add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste. When all my guests are sitting round the table, I take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the basil leaves, and gently fold these, tossing and stirring things about for 30 seconds. Then I very quickly heap out portions into bowls. By the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have begun to melt, so it will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting and just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. Set out a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater so that everyone can help themselves.
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Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella Recipe © 2004 Jamie Oliver. Photo © 2004 David Loftus. All rights reserved.