I've been making this dish for 8 or 9 years now, ever since I saw Giada de Laurentis make it on her food show one morning ( I watch her for her cooking, my husband for her cleavage!) We aren't big eggplant eaters, neither of us grew up eating a lot of it, so I don't have a big repertoire of dishes that uses the vegetable. I was gifted some beautiful home-grown eggplant recently so instantly thought of making this dish. This isn't the prettiest pasta dish you'll ever put on the table, but it's got a lot of flavor! It is so easy to make; just roast the veggies, cook the pasta while the veggies are in the oven, puree in the food processor and combine it all! It's got a lot of spiciness to it so if you have a milder palate just reduce the amount of red pepper flakes.
I usually add more tomatoes than the recipe calls for and, as a result, I don't have to use as much pasta water to get a creamy sauce. On this day I had a variety of different color cherry tomatoes, they were so pretty!
Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, whole
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 rigatoni pasta
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
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 5 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.