Monday, October 25, 2010

Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper

Cooking Italy Assignment
Eggplant Sauce with Tomato and Red Chili Pepper, p160

Ed's comment about this was "Excellent!" I think he liked it. In fact, we both very much liked it very much. The first night's dinner was good, and the leftovers might even have been better.

You start by salting a mess of eggplant slices and letting them weep. This is frequently an instruction in eggplant recipes, but so little liquid comes out of eggplant when I do this, I really wonder if this step is needed.

The slices are patted dry then fried in lots of hot oil, drained, and cut into "batons."

Meanwhile you sauté some garlic in olive oil, add some parsley, tomatoes, chili pepper, and salt and simmer this for a while. I used some of the seedless tomato sauce (unflavored) that I made up during the summer. When you're about ready to serve, you stir in the eggplant slices, cooking till everything is warmed through. (Unfortunately all my pics of the served dish turned out blurry, except for the one that was flashed out of sight. :-( )

The recipe calls for spaghettini, which I used (De Cecco), although it looks huge in the photo. I served the leftovers over fusilli, and I have to say I thought that it worked even better with the chunky eggplant bits and holding onto the delicious sauce. Making the sauce ahead might even improve the flavor, making it an ideal company dish.

Our only negative comment about this dish is that it seemed awfully oily—those eggplant slices really did soak up the grease, no matter that the oil was very hot. When I do this again, I think I'll try grilling the slices with just a bit of olive oil brushed on by hand, like I do when making pizza. But I definitely will do it again, because it was DEE-licious!


  1. So eager to make this soon, I'm all about the pasta e fagioli for this weekend. I remember reading somewhere that is makes no sense to salt and rest eggplant to remove liquid, it only makes them drier and they soak more oil when cooking as a result. Which totally made sense to me. I usually just broil them in the oven, brushed with a little oil, which is probably what I'll do here following all the negative comments from other Cooking Italy colleagues. Looks yum though :)

  2. Lynne, this is seriously Yum.

    I've just recently gotten a stove with a proper broiler, so I'm used to grilling eggplant, etc., on a grill pan. I'll try to remember to use the broiler next time. I like this so much better because you can use just a dab of olive oil.

    Next time I make this, I might try the frying thing on a couple of slices, one salted, one not, just to see if it makes a difference.

  3. This does sound good. I gave up salting eggplant before using years ago. I think I read somewhere that it was to reduce the bitterness that eggplants have (!). Since I've only once in my life encountered an eggplant that was a bit bitter, I assume that most modern varieties we encounter have had the bitterness bred out of them, so this common instruction is long out of date.

  4. I never bother salting my eggplant either. I've never had trouble with bitterness, and I also understand that this has been bred out of most modern varieties. I more recently learned that if you cut the eggplant open and the flesh is firm and has very few seeds, it's definitely not necessary to pre-salt, but maybe advisable if the eggplant has lots of seeds and is probably therefore a bit older.

    I can't wait to try this dish, will hopefully get to it this week. I think that I too will probably either cook it on a ridged grill pan or brush lightly with olive oil and bake - I find that a really successful way of cooking eggplant.

    Sue :-)

  5. Definitely gonna try this! I've got another batch of eggplant coming along in the garden that should be ready to use in another couple of weeks. I love eggplant. I'm always on the lookout of ways to use it.