Fresh Eggplant Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti
Now for those of you who have been following my blog, this recipe may seem semi-familiar, and to be honest it kind of is. This is a variation of my Spaghetti with Fresh Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce. I have made many variations of this recipe in the past using whatever veggies I had in the fridge, so you can take this one as an encouragement to create your own variation on a classic (at least a classic in my recipe book) haha =). Like I had mentioned in the original recipe, I pretty much eat this of some variation of this at least once a week. There are weeks when I have it almost everyday for lunch. Literally the only reason I won’t eat it everyday is because I will feel guilty, and think that I should probably be eating less carbs, or more greens or something healthier at least at some point during the week. (Having a healthy lifestyle is hard work… I’m still learning). But it happens often when the craving for this tomato based sauce takes over and I have no choice but to just make it. I have weak resolve apparently. Put a chocolate chip cookie in front of me, and I could probably easily turn it down (except during my chocolate craving phase of the month if you know what I mean ;-)…) but put a plate of spaghetti with a fresh and savory tomato based sauce and I will NEVER turn it down.
Lets get started!
First you want to start with preparing all your fresh ingredients so they are already ready when you need them. The tomatoes, eggplant, garlic and chili pepper if you are using it. The important thing to remember when you are cutting the tomatoes and also the eggplant for this sauce at least is that the size of what you cut doesn’t matter as long as the peel for each piece is small. The rest of the fruit will eventually mostly dissolve into the sauce, but the peel will hold its size, so as long as you cut the fruit (yes eggplant and tomatoes are both fruit) so that the peel is small it’s all good. You can see in the image how the eggplant pieces are “tall”. The fruit attached to the eggplant is big, but the peel attached it is not too big. It’s just less work to worry about cutting it this way instead of into cubes.
Heat some oil in a pan on medium- medium high heat and wait until it gets hot to add the eggplant. Eggplant is notorious for absorbing as much oil as possible so if you add it before the oil gets hot, the few pieces that make contact with the oil will just absorb it like a sponge. If the oil is hot enough (shimmery) then at least it will last long enough to spread to more of the pieces before getting absorbed. It’s okay if you don’t see any oil for a while, you don’t have to add any more unless you find it sticking.Once you add the eggplant sprinkle some salt onto the eggplant, it will help to remove the inherent bitterness that eggplant has. The reason we cook the eggplant first in this recipe before adding the tomatoes is to get a good browning and caramelizing on them. This really adds a lot of complex flavor to the eggplant without really adding any extra work.
After some time, you will see that the eggplant is starting to brown and reduce in size. This is good, but it’s not done yet. Keep cooking it.
Here you will notice that now the eggplant has lost its “raw” color completely and has caramelized nicely. and has begun to fall apart at the fruit furthest away from the peel. This is exactly what you are looking for.
Add the fresh diced tomatoes now to the eggplant now. The moisture from the tomatoes will create a lot of steam, that’s expected.
Make sure you mix everything nicely so that the tomatoes can have as much contact with the pan as possible. Mix around every minute or so. You may need to add a little bit more oil at this point, you need to decide for yourself at this moment.
Once you mix in the tomatoes, also mix in the garlic and chopped chili peppers.
After a few minutes you will notice the pan will be getting quite dry. The moisture will have been reduced greatly. Unlike with the cherry tomato sauce, this one needs a little bit of help to continue cooking.
At this point add some water to the pan to bring back some moisture so the tomatoes and the eggplant can continue to cook down. The water also helps to distribute the flavors of the garlic and chili pepper more evenly. If you are going to add more spices, now is the time since the water will help it dissolve into the sauce evenly. I added a little bit more salt and some cayenne pepper and freshly ground pepper.
You want to cook down the sauce again all the way until it almost all of the moisture is gone. Be sure to occasionally gently smush the eggplant and tomato with a fork or spoon as its cooking and you are stirring it around. You can see now how much the tomato and eggplant have cooked down.
Remove the pan from the heat and give it a minute to cool down slightly. Then add a pad of butter and mix into the sauce while its melting. Now the sauce is ready to receive the pasta!
Once your pasta is done cooking (I prefer to eat this with spaghetti but you can really use any pasta you prefer). Make sure the pasta is slightly undercooked it will finish cooking with the sauce. Put the pan back onto a medium heat stove and add the almost cooked noodles and 1/4 cup of pasta water. Mix around and cook the sauce with the noodles until you no longer see much water left when you pull the pasta back towards or push it away from you.
Thats it! Then you are ready to serve! =)
Feel free to top it with some freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese for an added layer of flavor =)
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! Be sure to let me know if you try it in the comments! =)
- 4.8-5oz of your favorite pasta - Mine is Spaghetti
- 2 Tablespoon - Cooking Olive Oil
- 1/2 medium/small - Eggplant
- 1 Medium - Tomato
- 1 - Green Chili (optional for heat)
- 1or 2 - Garlic cloves (to taste)
- 1/4-1/2 cup - water
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for heat)
- 1/2 tablespoon - Salted Butter (pad of butter)
- fresh grated - Parmesan and/or pecorino for garnish
- Boil Water for Pasta (be sure to cook pasta slightly undercooked as it will finish cooking with the sauce)
- Prepare all of your fresh ingredients ahead of time.
- Chop the eggplant into cubes (make sure the peel is small (see blurb on blog post), Dice tomatoes, and mince garlic and chili pepper.
- Heat Olive Oil in a pan on medium-medium high heat.
- Once the oil is hot/shimmery - add eggplant, sprinkle some salt on top evenly and stir around the pot.
- Cook the eggplant until they no longer look raw, get nicely browned, and are starting to fall apart away from the peel, make sure to move them around the pan every now and then.
- Once the eggplant is ready, add the diced tomatoes and mix them in. You may need to add a little bit more oil at this point. You must decide at that time. Then add the garlic and chili pepper and mix in. The tomatoes will have moisture which will create some steam, this is normal.
- Cook this down until most of the moisture has been cooked out of the tomatoes without burning anything. At this point add the water to reintroduce moisture back so that the sauce can continue cooking. Add a little bit more salt, freshly ground pepper, and cayenne pepper if you are using.
- Cook the sauce back down to the point where there is very little moisture left in the pan. While it is cooking down be sure to squish the eggplant and tomatoes with a fork or spoon gently every now and then to encourage them to dissolve. At this point the tomatoes and eggplant should look sufficiently dissolved.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for a couple minutes. Then add the pad of butter and mix it into the sauce gently while it is melting.
- By now your pasta should be done cooking. If you drain your pasta be sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water on the side. Put the pan back onto medium/medium-high heat and add your pasta and the pasta water. Mix everything around so everything has been evenly coated and cook down until there is very little moisture left.
- Now all thats left is to serve and eat!
- Top the pasta with some freshly grated parmesan and/or pecorino once its in the plate or bowl =)
- *You can also substitute the eggplant with zucchini. The zucchini wont dissolve as much and the flavor will obviously be different but the recipe and order of events is the same. =) You would probably need 2 zucchinis to replace the 1/2 eggplant.
- *This recipe can easily be made vegan by subbing the butter for earth balance or just skipping it entirely, and skipping the cheeses at the end and possibly topping it with some nutritional yeast.