Rigatoni With Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant and Mozzarella
- Remove both ends of the eggplant and slice it into ½ inch slices, then slice these across and finely dice into ½ inch cubes. Some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but I don’t really do this unless I’m dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. This dish is really best made using a firm silky one.
- Now put a large saucepan on the heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. When it’s hot, add the cubes of eggplant, and as soon as they hit the pan, stir them around with a spoon so they are delicately coated with the oil and not soaked on one side only. Cook for about 7 or 8 minutes on a medium heat. Then add the garlic and onion. When they have a little color, add the canned tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. Stir around and season carefully with salt and pepper. At this point, if you wanted to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chilli, but that’s up to you. Add the basil stalks, and simmer the sauce nice and gently for around 15 minutes, then add the cream.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until it is soft but still holding its shape, then drain it, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle of olive oil and move it around so it becomes almost dressed with the water and oil.
- At this point add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta. By now the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy tomatoey pulp, which is just yum yum yum! (Jamie’s words) Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper. Take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the fresh basil, and fold these in nicely for 30 seconds. Then very quickly serve into bowls. By the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have started to melt and will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting. Just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. Serve at the table with a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater so that everyone can help themselves.