Freshly picked eggplant is sweet and avoids the common bitterness of store-bought ones. Adding fresh picked, pan-roasted tomatoes makes the flavors really pop!
1 - 1 1/2lbsfresh eggplant
1/2cuponion sliced thin or chopped
1 1/2teaspoonschopped garlic
2cupsfreshripe Italian tomatoes or other plum tomatoes cut in half
8 - 10fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
1/3cupextra virgin olive oil
3tablespoonsfreshly grated Romano cheese
3tablespoonsfresh Ricotta cheese
1 - 1 1/2lbspasta
Cut off the spiky green cap on the eggplant, then peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut into cubes, about 1 1/2 inches long.
Add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of a heavy frying pan (preferably cast iron), heat until oil is just becoming hot, then add as much eggplant as will fit and still allow turning of the cubes. Start the well salted pasta water to heating on high.
Turn eggplant every few minutes, adding olive oil as needed to keep from sticking to bottom of pan. You may need to add a little oil several times as you initially turn the cubes. While eggplant is cooking, chop the onion and garlic.
Cook eggplant, turning every few minutes, until the cubes feel tender when poked with a fork.
Transfer into a bowl and set in a warm area until needed.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add onion, stirring frequently to coat with the olive oil. After the onion starts to soften and brown slightly, add garlic. You can cut the tomatoes in half while the onion and garlic is cooking.
Once garlic is very fragrant and onion is softened and browned, transfer to the eggplant bowl and set aside.
Add tomato halves, cut side down and increase heat to medium. You don't want the tomatoes to sizzle, but to melt into the pan in about 10 minutes as they cook. Fill the pan and add extra tomatoes as they cook down.
Start cooking the pasta after adding the tomatoes to the pan. It should be done right when the sauce is finished.
Test the doneness of the tomatoes by prodding them with a spatula. As they cook, they will soften and melt into the sauce that starts forming from the other tomatoes. When all of the tomatoes are soft and have no firms spots left the sauce is ready to blend.
Transfer the tomato sauce to a blender and puree the skins into the sauce until they can't be seen. Return the sauce to the pan and decrease the heat to low or medium-low.
Add the reserved eggplant, onion and garlic to the tomato sauce. If the sauce seems a little soupy or watery at this point, give the eggplant about 5 minutes to absorb the liquid.
Gently heat the sauce in the pan on low until it is warmed through, then add the basil leaves, ricotta and grated Romano cheese. Mix well.
Serve immediately over hot pasta.
This is a very engaging sauce - the ripe flavors shine through the roasted overtones and the eggplant does not get lost in the tomatoes richness. There are lots of flavors and tastes going on, which will pleasantly surprise many diners! Most people will want to go back for a second serving, so be prepared.
From the Terroir Seeds test kitchen. Sicilian Eggplant and Tomato Sauce https://underwoodgardens.com/sicilian-eggplant-and-tomato-sauce/