Casarecce Pasta with Pesto, Eggplant and Slow Roasted Tomatoes 

Don't make a common mistake and overdress pasta.  The star of the show here is the pasta and the sauce should complement it.  The pasta should be thoroughly but not heavily coated with sauce.  You'll enjoy it more that way.

serves 4

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, about 2 cups
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small to medium eggplant, cut into ½ inch cubes, about 3 cups
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1½ ounce chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 ounce raw unroasted almonds (just less than ¼ cup) 
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 8 ounces Barilla Casarecce pasta 
  • 1 tablespoons capers packed in salt, rinsed

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line two rimmed baking pans with heavy duty foil. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, lengthwise.  Place on one baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle with about ¼ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.  On the other sheet, place the eggplant cubes and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.  Toss thoroughly.  Place the pans in the oven and roast the eggplant for 30 minutes, until soft. Roast the tomatoes for 45 - 50 minutes, until the tomatoes have collapsed and some are crisping at the edges.  

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and make the pesto.  In a food processor, place the chunk of Parmigiano cheese and the almonds and grind until fine.  Add the basil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper and process just a little.  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, slowly, in the feed tube and process just until blended.  

Boil the Casarecce pasta for about 10 minutes, until just al dente. Remove the pasta with a strainer to a large bowl (do not get rid of the pasta water).  Add the pesto and toss thoroughly.  It will be thick, so add about ¼ cup of hot pasta water to the pasta and keep tossing, until the pesto loosens up and has thoroughly coated the pasta. Keep adding hot pasta water, just a tablespoon at a time, if you need to.  Add the roasted eggplant, tomatoes and capers and toss gently.  Taste and add more sea salt if desired. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.

The Italian Dish
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