Sunday, March 2, 2014

Eggplant & Caramelized Onion Pasta

We celebrated Parade Day, a.k.a. Leprecon Day, a.k.a Hoboken St. Patrick's Day yesterday.  Keeping the tradition alive, I made Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole and Carbomb Cupcakes which we enjoyed with mimosas and Irish coffee.  We also had green bagels, and casseroles cooked by friends: a French toast casserole and an egg casserole with sausage and sun dried tomatoes.  Both were delicious! The city of Hoboken has tried to quell the early St. Patrick's Day festivities over the past few years, and the streets were noticeably less crowded than years past, but we still hosted a party and had a great time with our friends!

I love eggplant! If we’re out to dinner and there’s eggplant on the menu, KK is willing to bet that’s the dish I’ll order.  And he’s usually right.  In fact, I ended Parade Day with dinner at Cafe Michelina last night and ordered eggplant parm.  As with the Spinach & Eggplant Casserole I made in Hilton Head, the eggplant adds volume and filling-ness (I’ve just made up a word) to this meal.  The original recipe focused on getting the eggplant started before the pasta, but I recommend (and have noted below) you start with the onions, giving them plenty of time to caramelize over medium-low heat.  Slice the onions as thin as you possibly can – using a mandolin works best! I’m really fond of the sherry flavor in caramelized onions, but using little water or vegetable broth instead are both good non-alcoholic substitutes.  If you don’t like the skin of eggplants, you can optionally peel the eggplant before cutting it up and roasting it.  After the individual components of the meal cook separately (pasta, onions, eggplant), the meal comes together quickly by tossing everything into the same pot!

Eggplant & Caramelized Onion Pasta
Adapted from  Alexandra Cooks
Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 2-4

1 large eggplant
Olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. pasta such as Gemelli or penne
Sherry or cooking wine
24 oz. jar pasta sauce
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese, for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

3.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Season onions lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until caramelized. After about 15 minutes, deglaze the pan with a splash of sherry or cooking wine.  Continue caramelizing for another 10-15 minutes.  Add garlic and basil in the final minute of cooking.

4. As onions cook, cut eggplant into ½ - 1-inch cubes.  Toss lightly with olive oil, then spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 25 minutes until the eggplant is lightly browned and tender.

5.  Combine pasta, eggplant, caramelized onions, sauce, and crushed red pepper in the pot used for cooking the pasta.  Stir to combine, and heat until sauce is simmering.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
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