It’s no secret I am a fan of eggplant and this dish is a wonderful way to feature it! I found some Chinese eggplant at the market and decided it would be ideal for this tomato ragu. These eggplants, if you haven’t used them before are longer and more slender than the traditional eggplant, and I think they are a bit denser and have less water when they are roasted. Consequently, they maintain their integrity in the sauce and don’t break down quite as easily. For my tomato sauce, I used fresh tomatoes rather than canned or crushed tomatoes. I added a little balsamic vinegar for flavor right at the end of the cooking process for a little sweetness. The toasted panko adds some crispiness and texture to the dish. It is the season of lent for Greeks, so this is a great one to incorporate as we fast before Easter. Hope you enjoy!
Serves 2-4 people
- 8 oz spaghetti
- 4 Chinese eggplants, diced
- 2 pints grape, san Marzano, or cherry tomatoes
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 bunch basil, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup panko
- about 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling (optional)
- kosher salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Preheat your oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the eggplant with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper and oregano. Spread diced eggplant on prepared baking sheet and roast for about 20 -25 minutes until tender, tossing gently with a spoon to roast evenly. Remove from oven and set aside.
While eggplant is roasting, heat a medium skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil and saute onions for several minutes on medium heat, season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and turn up heat so they begin to caramelize and release their juices (a few minutes). Add garlic and balsamic vinegar and stir gently. Add in the roasted eggplant, remove from heat and set aside (keep warm).
In a separate small non-stick pan, heat an additional tablespoon of olive oil on low and add the panko. Stirring constantly, allow the panko to become golden and toasted (this will take about 5 minutes). Once golden remove from heat. Stir in chopped parsley.
Prepare your spaghetti according to package directions to al dente reserving about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Drain pasta and add eggplant ragu, stirring gently with chopped basil to combine. Add a bit of cooking liquid as needed to loosen sauce. Divide pasta in bowls, sprinkle with the panko crumbs. Garnish with additional basil and enjoy immediately!