We are roasting with Giada over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. Since I have been traveling and consuming way more red meat and heavy foods than I normally do (what happens when dinner ends up in a steakhouse most nights), I was craving something centered around roasted veggies and picked Penne with Roasted Eggplant Sauce. The eggplant roasts along with cherry tomatoes and garlic and then is pureed into a thick sauce along with mint leaves, mixed with cheese and topped with pine nuts. I made two small adjustments--increasing the garlic and switching out the cheese from Parmesan to feta to do a more Mediterranean take on the dish.
You can find the recipe in "Giada's Kitchen" on pg 130 or at Food Network here.
Giada says, "Roasting brings out the best flavors in fall vegetables, and it's a super-easy way to cook them, as well: just cut them into cubes and let the oven do the rest. Once pureed they become a warm, mellow sauce that collects in the tubular pasta, so that when you bite one the flavors explode in your mouth."
Penne with Roasted Eggplant Puree
Adapted from "Giada's Kitchen" by Giada De Laurentiis
(4 to 6 Servings)
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, whole (I used 5 cloves)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (I used feta cheese)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red
pepper flakes. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish. Place in the oven on the rack below the vegetables. Roast until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor. Add the torn mint leaves and extra-virgin olive oil. Puree the vegetables.
Transfer the pureed vegetables to the bowl with the pasta and add the Parmesan. Stir to combine, adding the pasta cooking liquid 1/2 cup at a time until the pasta is saucy. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top and serve.
Notes/Results: A nice chunky sauce with good flavor. I like the combination of the roasted veggies with the coolness of the mint and the slight kick from the red pepper. I used 5 large cloves of garlic in mine and liked the extra flavor--since it roasts along with the eggplant and tomato it doesn't overpower. I think the Parmesan called for in the recipe would have been good too, but I couldn't resist adding the feta--which I needed to use up anyway, and it went nicely with the mint and pine nuts. I used a multi-grain penne pasta to get a little more fiber in and the thick sauce held up well to it. This is a great hearty vegetarian dish, although adding a little sausage certainly would be delicious too. I would make this again.
You can see how the other IHCC participants got roasted with Giada by going to the post here and following the links.