Smoky Eggplant Pasta with Pounded Walnut Relish, Mozzarella and Basil
Sure, you could boil some spaghetti, dump a can of store-bought tomato sauce on top and call it a day. Or you could shake up your routine and try this gorgeous, elevated recipe for smoky eggplant pasta with pounded walnut relish, mozzarella and basil by Abra Berens, author of the cookbook Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Eating Vegetables.
“This recipe purées the eggplant to give it an even texture and maximizes the smoky flavor by using the skin,” Berens tells us. The results? An easy, rustic dinner that’s every bit as delicious as the pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant.
Wait, scratch that. This one’s better.
1 large (or 2 medium) eggplant
1 cup (120g) walnuts
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
½ bunch parsley, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons (12g) salt, divided
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
16 ounces long pasta noodles (spaghetti, bucatini or linguine)
2 balls fresh mozzarella
5 sprigs basil, stemmed and torn
1. Make the Eggplant: Turn on the grill or preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and roast or grill until the flesh is fully collapsed and soft, about 35 minutes. (If grilling, the skin will be dark and charred; that’s OK.)
3. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a ziplock bag. Bash with the bottom of a frying pan until coarsely chopped.
4. Combine the walnuts with the lemon juice, zest, parsley and 1 teaspoon of the salt; set aside.
5. Remove the eggplant from the heat and let cool. Remove the stem and roughly chop the eggplant and skin.
6. Transfer the eggplant to a food processor and blend with the olive oil, chili flakes and remaining salt until very smooth.
7. Make the Pasta: Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta according to the box’s instructions and drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
8. Toss the pasta with the eggplant puree and water to make a coating sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the pasta to serving dishes.
9. Tear the mozzarella into pieces and scatter over the pasta. Garnish with the walnut mixture and basil leaves.