Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Violet Vanity

I have a friend who went through a period when her hair color was purple. It was after "mall bangs" and shortly before "the Rachel". She is someone who is really into her appearance so I know she thought it looked good. It wasn't a horrific dye job or a bad chemical reaction to a chlorinated pool - she did it on purpose. The funniest part about the entire situation is that she used to say her hair color was "eggplant" as if that made the situation better. I never totally understood her justification. Why was it shameful to have purple hair, but more noble to have a hair hue named after a bitter fruit? I can't ever cook eggplant without thinking of my purple headed pal (who will remain nameless to protect her identity and preserve her dignity). In my opinion I much prefer to eat my eggplant than to resemble it!

Eggplant Marinara Pasta Casserole
Cooking Light August 2008


6 cups (1/2-inch) cubed eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
Cooking spray
1 ounce pancetta, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
16 ounces uncooked penne (tube-shaped pasta)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1 (3-inch) piece French bread baguette (2 ounces) (I used whole-wheat)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


1. Arrange eggplant on several layers of heavy-duty paper towels. Sprinkle eggplant with 1 teaspoon kosher salt; let stand 15 minutes. Pat dry with additional paper towels.

2. Preheat oven to 450°.

3. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet; cool.

4. Cook pancetta in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, oil, and garlic to pan; cook 6 minutes or until onion is lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add wine to pan; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in basil, oregano, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; partially cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat; stir in eggplant.

5. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Add pasta and reserved 1/4 cup cooking water to tomato mixture; stir well. Spoon pasta mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with fontina.

6. Place baguette in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 1/2 cups. Add Parmesan to processor; pulse 5 times. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over fontina.

7. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

This casserole was amazing. It took a long time to cook so I wouldn't cook it on a weeknight after work again, but we will definitely be having it soon. The flavor medley was amazing and the rich color after the casserole baked in the oven was beautiful (see above). I particularly loved the texture of the crumbled baguette mixed with the Parmesan cheese. After baking, the breadcrumbs became extra crunchy and were the perfect compliment to the soft melted fontina cheese.


MrsSchoon said...

I saw this in this month's issue. It looks great!

KMAYS said...

That looks fabulous! So good.

Gabriela said...

Your eggpant dish looks downright decadent. There ought to be a law against blogging about such sumptuous temptations.

Joelen said...

Mmmm - I really like eggplant and I would totally eat this up. My husband, on the other hand isn't quite as thrilled with eggplant as I am. Looks great!

Anonymous said...

i have never ate eggplant but i think it looks tasty. i wish you would cook for me sometime.

Lore said...

LOL :)) I also prefer eating rather than resembling an eggplant! Just like Joelen's husband mine isn't either a fan but that's not my case, I'm always looking for new ways of cooking with eggplants and this sounds and looks delicious!

Cheryl said...

I have never made eggplant anything before, this looks like a good way to start! thanks for sharing.

Woody said...

very good meal and I think your pictures are awesome.