Summer Eggplant Pasta

During the summer months I relish the chance to visit the farmer's market in search of local produce with fleeting seasons.  I always plan my weekly menu before heading to the grocery store, but when the market is open, I buy what looks irresistible and then plan my menu around that.

Last weekend I came across these beautiful Japanese eggplant.  When I think of eggplant, my mind immediately jumps to Italian food.  A good eggplant parmesan or baked orzo with pillowy chunks of roasted eggplant sets my heart fluttering.  When the temperature's in the nineties, though, I find myself less interested in the hearty dishes I gravitate toward in the winter.  My ideal summer pasta has a light sauce and a high vegetable-to-noodle ratio.

Enter this dish, a celebration of seasonal vegetables with complexity of flavor, spare noodles, and an easy sauce that just clings to the whole mix.

This meal also happens to fill another essential summer meal criteria: it's dead simple.  While the vegetables are roasting, you compile the remaining ingredients.  Then it's just a matter of tossing it all together and devouring it happily.  Do give it a try and if you do, let me know how you liked it in the comments section.  Cheers!

Summer Eggplant Pasta

serves 4

  • 4 Japanese eggplant or 2 medium conventional eggplant, diced large
  • coarse salt and black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 small round head radicchio, cored and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 pound short pasta, such a farfalle or fusilli
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (my method here)
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/4 c finely grated parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 c fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a colander, toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Roll up tightly in a clean tea towel and squeeze to soak up as much excess water as possible.  Transfer eggplant to a rimmed baking sheet.  Toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and pepper to taste.  In a separate oven-safe dish, toss radicchio with 1 tablespoon oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Bake eggplant until golden and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes, adding radicchio to the oven for the final fifteen minutes of roasting time.  After removing vegetables from oven, immediately drizzle radicchio with balsamic vinegar.  Slip and discard the skins from the garlic cloves.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.  Return pasta to pot then add eggplant, peeled garlic cloves, radicchio, currants, olives, pine nuts, parmesan, herbs, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and enough pasta water to create a light sauce that coats the pasta.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with extra parmesan and parsley to serve.

Note:  This recipe was adapted quite liberally from Martha Stewart Living.