Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pasta con melanzane (Norma e funghetto!)

I realized recently that there are a number of very traditional and very easy Italian pasta recipes that I make quite commonly and I never posted about... So I need to correct this lacking! I'll start here with the description of two versions of Pasta with Eggplants. My next similar post will be dedicated to Pasta with Broccoli, as per Amit's request.. so stay tuned. :)

Pasta alla Norma
This is the most traditional pasta with Eggplant recipe. It's from Sicily, and apparently it was made in honor of Bellini's masterpiece 'Norma' (hence the name). I made it recently at Ellif's, when I was asked to 'guest-chef' an Italian vegeterian dinner: I love eggplants and what's more Italian than pasta?
So, to make this dish, sautee half a big onion in olive oil, add 1 big diced eggplant, fry for ~10 min. Add salt, and one big can of diced canned tomatoes. Add ~1 tbsp salt and 1 tsp sugar if the tomatoes are acidic. Cook for another 20 min. Taste and add salt if necessary. Add ~1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata (I had to use a mixture of regular soft ricotta and feta cheese, since we didn't find ricotta salata) and stir in the sauce for a few minutes. Then mix with the pasta, cooked 'al dente' (the sauce should be enough for 1 lb). Traditionally you'd use penne, like in the picture above, but other types work too! Sprinkle with basil leaves and serve with extra ricotta salata or pecorino cheese to grate on top, for the people who like extra cheese!

Pasta con melanzane al funghetto / Pasta with eggplant-mushroom style
This is the pasta I made tonight. I found these delicious small, cylindrical so-called 'Italian eggplants', that work perfectly for this type of eggplant dish, 'melanzane al funghetto' (mushroom-style eggplants). The name refers to the fact that if you cook these eggplants with these few tricks that I'm going to give below, they will taste (and smell) like mushrooms. It's true! I always loved 'melanzane al funghetto' and it's a typical way that Italian mothers make eggplants for children who think they don't like eggplants (or restaurant owners who want to cheat not-too-smart customers.. of course the price of mushrooms is not comparable to that of eggplants.. :)).
So to make 'melanzane al funghetto', saute 3 garlic cloves, finely diced, in 3 tbsp olive oil. Add 6 'Italian eggplants' cut into pieces and cook on high heat for ~20 min, adding salt to taste. Stir every once in a while. At the end, add 1/2 cup parseley leaves. That's it! If you try, let me know if you also think that they taste a bit like mushrooms.
For my pasta, I also added ~ 2 cups small Romanitas tomatoes cut in half and 3 tsp capers, cooked for 10 more minutes, and added 1/3 cup feta cheese and some more parseley at the end. Then I added it to my 'tricolor' pasta... it was very good. :)

These eggplants pasta dishes are my entry for the 'Presto Pasta nights' hosted by Ruth at Once Upon A Feast.. Also, I want to point out that Happy Cook just posted about a very similar recipe - I found out because she's using her recipe for my next 'Fresh produce of the month' tomato-centered event!


Finla said...

Hey that was a coincidence we cooked the same dish, it was the first time i cooked it.
I also coudn't fine ricotta salata and i used feta.

chemcookit said...

eheh, yeah. I found ricotta salata in North Carolina but not yet here!!!

Ruth Daniels said...

I love eggplant but have to hide it from my family, so I love both these dishes. Thanks so much for bringing the to the big Presto Pasta Night Six Month Celebration.