On this beautiful sunny day, I am enjoying a coffee on our terrace while reading the morning newspaper. The news is not good these days. As the world bumps along in these interesting times, and events feel frustratingly out of our control, I will purposely find peace and balance in the immediacy and pleasure of my environment with family and friends. Tonight we will have a comforting meal with vegetables harvested from our garden. I cannot change events, but I can gratefully make a small difference in the lives of those who are close to me.
Baked Penne with Aubergine, Tomato and Basil
1 medium-sized firm eggplant, about 1 lb.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 28 oz. (800 grams) can Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1 cup cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. penne pasta
1 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup shredded basil leaves
Quarter eggplant lengthwise. Slice quarters 1/4″ thick.
In an oven-proof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until hot. Add half of eggplant. Sauté until brown and soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet. Add remaining eggplant. Sauté until brown and soft. Return drained eggplant to skillet. Add oregano and garlic. Saute until garlic is fragrant but not brown and eggplant softens further, about 4 minutes. (Add additional olive oil, if skillet becomes dry.)
Add tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add penne and cook until just tender but still firm, 5 minutes. Drain. Add pasta to eggplant mixture. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup Pecorino cheese. Add half of the basil. Stir to combine. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake in pre-heated 350 F. oven until cheese is melted and brown, about 40 minutes.
Serve garnished with remaining basil leaves.