I heard while visiting Rome that this was a city to be walked and explored. No plans made, no sights to visit…just walk. So for four days that is what I did. I walked myself every night (and a few afternoons) to the best gelato shop. (Gelateria del Teatro) During the ‘blue hour’ of the night this twinkling sign always caught my eye. When I decided to stop in for lunch there was melanzana (eggplant) on the menu….Tortio di melanzane alla parmigiane. A simple but delicious pasta made with tomatoes, eggplant, and cheese.
Eggplant is in season right now back in the States, so I picked up a beauty last week at the farmer’s market and started researching recipes to duplicate what I had in Italy. The only recipe I could find that was similar to what I had was one by Lidia Bastianich. The recipe was quite large…3 quarts total. I ended up doing some tweaking as I didn’t have the huge quantities of tomatoes and eggplants she required for the recipe. The eggplant ends up ‘melting’ into the sauce and overall the dish was spicy. Just the way I like it!
15 oz of tomato sauce + 3 small tomatoes seeded and chopped
1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon dried peperoncino, or to taste
1 tsp. dried basil
2 cup H2O
Trim and peel the eggplant. Cut it lengthwise in 3/4-inch wide slices, stack the slices and cut them into 3/4-inch wide strips, then chop into 3/4-inch chunks.
Stir together the oil, the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the saucepan. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, add the garlic and let it caramelize it in a hot spot, then stir in a couple tablespoons of water and cook the onions and garlic together for a minute or two.
Now pour the eggplant pieces into the pan, sprinkle on salt, and turn to coat the pieces with the oil and sautéed onion and garlic. Cook over low-medium heat, uncovered, stirring and turning the eggplant frequently. If the pan gets dry and the pieces start to brown, stir in several spoons of water; lower the heat if needed.
Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the eggplant chunks are very soft, almost mushy, but still retain their shape. Pour in the prepared tomato sauce, and tomatoes, rinse the tomato can with 2 cups of water and pour it into the pan (the eggplant needs the additional liquid). Sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepperoncino, and basil. Stir to blend everything together. Cover the pan and raise the heat to medium.
When the sauce reaches the boil, lower the heat to keep an active simmer and cook, covered, for 40 minutes or so. The eggplant should now be broken down and melting into the tomatoes.
Uncover the pan and let the sauce bubble gently and gradually reduce. Stir carefully as it thickens, to make sure the eggplant doesn’t stick to the pan bottom, lower the heat if necessary. Cook uncovered for a total of 45 minutes to an hour, until the sauce has the consistency you like, and then turn off the heat. Store in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer, in a properly filled and sealed container, through the winter.
Photo was used from www.osteriadelpegno.it
Original recipe is here.