The summer’s likely last harvest of skinny white Asian eggplant left me with a good-size basket, but I wasn’t in a mood to do anything fancy with them. I wanted something simple, easy, tasty, a good dinner to wrap up the weekend that would go with a bit of leftover Tuscan table red. And just to make things a little more complicated, storms passing through made the idea of grilling them unattractive.
So, how about this? Quickly rough-cut them into half-inch chunks, skin left on; toss with S&P and olive oil and roast them on a cookie sheet at 425 until soft, creamy and delicious.
This takes about 25 minutes roasting time, just long enough to chop a small onion and a big garlic clove, peel, seed and chop a big beefsteak tomato, and just to make things even more interesting, chop fine a few leftover roasted red Italian peppers in a refrigerator jar.
Brown the onions and garlic with shakes of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried red pepper flakes. When they’re starting to get good and brown, stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook quickly over medium heat until they start resolving into a sauce. (During this process, start penne boiling in salted water.) With a few minutes to go, reduce the sauce heat to low, add the roasted eggplant chunks, stir, and continue to simmer very low. A moment or two before the end, stir in the tiny roasted pepper bits.
Drain the pasta, stir it into the sauce, top with Pecorino Romano cheese and serve. It went great with the second half of an affordable ($12) bottle of Sassoregale Maremma Toscana Sangiovese, and the best thing about it was that while there were still plenty of recognizable eggplant chunks, a lot of the rich, sweet roasted eggplant melted into a remarkably “creamy” sauce.