I adore aubergines. They’re so beautiful to look at, all plump and shiny and inky-purple, and I think they may be a little addictive – we had them twice last week, once in a lamb curry, and then again in this pasta dish. I urge you to make this – it’s so simple and comforting, writing this post has made me crave it again.
You need (for two people):
1 red onion, chopped into eighths
1 red chilli, finely sliced (take the seeds out if you don’t want much heat)
1 bunch of basil
2 garlic cloves, crushed/minced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 ball buffalo mozzarella, torn into inch-sized bits
Approx 140g rigatoni (penne would be good too)
Olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar
Put the oven on, at 200 degrees. Chop the aubergines into inch cubes (roughly) and spread out on a baking tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes – you want them to char a little round the edges. Roasting the aubergine first ensures that it becomes silky and tender – undercooked aubergine is a VERY WRONG THING.
Get the water boiling for the pasta in a big pan (make sure to add a good pinch of salt to the water), and heat a little olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the onion to the oil and cook for about 5 minutes until softened, then add the garlic and chilli and stir everything round for another minute before you chuck in the chopped tomatoes. Mix the aubergine in with the tomato sauce, dribble in a little balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. You might need to add a pinch of sugar as well, depending on the tartness of the tomatoes – taste and see. Turn the heat down to a low setting and let it blip away while you cook the pasta according to packet instructions. I used wholewheat rigatoni, which has a pleasing nuttiness that complements the smoky softness of the aubergine.
A couple of minutes before the pasta is done add a tablespoon of the pasta water, a squeeze of lemon juice and a handful of shredded basil to the aubergine sauce, and put the grill on. Drain the pasta, combine with the aubergine sauce and tumble into an ovenproof dish. Dot the mozzarella on top of the pasta and place under the grill for a few minutes. It’s done when the mozzarella has coloured slightly and collapsed into the sauce (buffalo mozzarella doesn’t go stringy when cooked, and is the perfect milky foil for the gentle heat of the chilli – regular mozzarella would be too cheesy in this I think).
Enjoy! (With a big glass of wine, obv)