Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Old Favorite, Revisited

When I was in high school, I decided for about a year that I was a vegetarian. In fact, for a while, I was vegan. Then I realized that my 100-pounds-soaking-wet self didn't do so well without any animal protein at all. So I put the milk and eggs back in rotation. Then one day, I missed chicken, and I indulged in a PF Chang's chicken lettuce wrap. After that, I realized that food was just more delicious when you eat meat.

Anyhow, my wonderful parents, while secretly knowing this was just a phase, made my eating preferences a priority in the house. We had this cookbook and leaned heavily on the dishes listed in it, especially the Eggplant Parmesan. Unlike many Italian-American dishes, it was super light and fairly healthy save for the layers of melty, gooey mozzarella cheese. I still enjoy making this dish when I have time to let it bubble away in the oven...on weeknights, though, that's not always possible. So I did a little eggplant parm remix, and turned it into a pasta sauce. It was perfect with whole-wheat pasta, which I find a little too hearty for lighter sauces. Unfortch, not the most photogenic of dishes, but you get the idea...

Eggplant-Tomato Sauce with Whole-Wheat Pasta

serves 2 with leftovers

Olive oil nonstick cooking spray
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Handful fresh basil, torn
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 box whole-wheat rotini, penne, or other short-cut pasta
Garnish: 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Generously coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Place eggplant on the baking sheet in one layer, and spray again with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Meanwhile, cook pasta per package direction. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, and cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried oregano, and salt and pepper. Gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove eggplant from oven, and add to tomato sauce; stir to combine. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Add pasta to sauce, and add pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the consistency of the sauce is to your liking. Stir in fresh basil and Parmesan. Serve, topped with mozzarella cheese, if desired.

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