Pasta, is a food I take for granted. My grandparents emigrated to Australia from Southern Italy. My paternal grandfather in 1921, and my remaining grandparents in the 1950s. I sometimes think about the difficult choices they made; I discovered when I visited Ellis Island in 2006 that my paternal grandfather John had originally lived in New York with his father. He probably would have lived in the tenements in the lower east side and his experience of New York would have been infinitely different from mine.
With my grandparents move to Australia, they brought their ideas about food. While some of the traditions are slowly dying out (we no longer make our sausages), some stay. My paternal grandmother Carmela was more passionate about food. When she was alive we would eat dinner at her house once a week. Recently when I made the Vegan Chocolate Cake, it smelt so distinctly like her cake it transported me back to her kitchen in North Carlton. However, she died when I was 9 and a lot of her recipes were never transcribed to paper and are lost.
Every two years with my maternal grandmother, we make our own sugo, which leads me to the fact I take pasta for granted. At home, I eat once or twice a week. Growing up without fail every Thursday night and every Sunday lunch/dinner (depending on work schedules). The sugo is transformed into a Bolognese or Napoletana sauce which requires a few hours to simmer so sometimes, unless there is a container already in the freezer, a quick substitute is required.
Spaghettini with Eggplant is an excellent staple. It’s relatively quick and robust in flavour, and most importantly can be adapted to personal tastes. It’s from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook: The of Italian Cooking and the Art of Italian Eating.
The ingredients are simple. I ended up increasing the recipe slightly because I had more mouths to feed, so I added a zucchini into the mix. It doesn’t matter whether you use whole or diced tomatoes. I used one of each, the tomatoes will slowly break down as the sauce cooks. If you don’t like a spicy sauce you can definitely omit the chilli.
I’ve always salted my eggplant because it’s something my mother, and my n0nna have done. I slice the eggplant into the size required, and line the bottom of colander and place salt on top and repeat the process. I let it sit for at least 30 minutes before rinsing and drying the eggplant. It’s probably not strictly necessary but a step because it’s always been an integral step for my nonna.
If you have decided to salt the eggplant it’s crucial to start the sauce so it has a chance to simmer. Chop the garlic and sauté in the the olive oil.
Stirring, add the parsley, tomatoes and chilli. Add this point a lovely aroma will fill the kitchen. Keep an eye on it, but allow to simmer until you are ready for the chopped eggplant (and zucchini).
Once you’ve chopped up the eggplant add it to the sauce and simmer until cooked. I’ve purposely used this photo because you can see my sauce is a little dry. During this step it’s imperative to keep a close eye on your sauce. If it’s dry, add water to it. I promise you the water evaporates and will not dilute your sauce. If your sauce is dry it will burn. At this stage taste your sauce and add salt to taste.
Also be mindful that if you add additional vegetables the cooking time will alter. I added the zucchini before the eggplant because the zucchini takes longer to cook.
Just before you add the eggplant, start boiling water for your pasta so the cooking time coincides. I dislike spaghetti, it’s too thick, so the finer the pasta the better (I prefer what’s referred to as angel hair). I’ve used Spaghettini for this recipe.
From start to finish this recipe took about an hour to make. You could definitely reduce that to 30 minutes by not salting the eggplant. I’ve served it with some fresh basil.
Quite simply, it’s delicious. It’s nice and filling without being heavy. It keeps really well and is perfect for a work day lunch. The sauce could be made a day or two ahead and kept in the fridge.
Spaghettini con le Melanzane
1 Medium Eggplant/Aubergine
1-2 Garlic Cloves
2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tins of tinned tomatoes
Finely chopped chilli t taste
Spaghettini to feed 4
1. Trim, slice and salt the eggplant (An optional step)
2. Sauté the garlic in olive oil before adding the paisley, chilli, and tomatoes. Simmer until you are ready to add the eggplant.
3. Dice the eggplant and add to the sauce and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked. Be mindful of the sauce, and if it seems dry add water.
4. While the sauce is cooking, boil water and add the pasta. Cook to taste.
5. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce.
6. Serve with fresh basil and if you are partial a glass of red wine.