I feel like eggplant is an underrated vegetable. Here in London, they’re called aubergines, which gives them such a more elegant air about them. Aubergines show up in tons of fall and winter dishes here — from a silky roasted aubergine, tomato and creme fraiche salad that I had at a gastropub in south London to charred disks of aubergine on a really satisfying crusty panini with arugula (called “rocket” here) and slices of marbled speck. I liked eggplant before we moved to London, but since we’ve been here I’ve fallen fully in love with aubergine.
Inspired by all of the gorgeous aubergine, I decided to make a simple gluten free roasted eggplant pasta the other night.
There are man types of aubergine over here, but my favorite is what they call the Italian aubergine. It’s a plump cousin of the eggplants you see in the U.S. The flavor is pretty much the same, except that, like a good woman, an Italian eggplant has more curves to love. Instead of having to roast four or five eggplants to have enough yield to make a pasta to serve four, with Italian eggplants I got away with just using two.
After our Whole30 experiment last year, I’ve been more conscious about not overdoing it with dairy and gluten. We aren’t completely gluten or dairy free, but I think having done a Whole30 elimination diet has made us more aware of the way certain ingredients make us feel. Recently I discovered Garofalo’s gluten free penne, and I have to say — it’s really delicious. Most gluten free pastas (or even whole wheat ones) turn gummy when they’re cooked, leaving you wishing for the real deal. Garofalo’s gluten free pastas stay al dente and absorb salt nicely.
The best part about this pasta is that you can roast the eggplants ahead of time, then throw together the dish on a weeknight at a moment’s notice. The heartiness of the eggplant makes this dish rich and filling without being heavy. I served mine with a dollop of creme fraiche on top, and the kids promptly took notice when I served it and mixed the creme fraiche into the pasta to form a creamy sauce.
Oh, and to top it off, I used Beautiful Ingredient’s gorgeous linen napkins as our place setting. Their heathered linen is rustic and brings a beautiful finishing touch to any dinner table. Check out their line of kitchen linen here, and you can get a 15% off discount by using code HOLIDAYVB1012! (Thanks to Beautiful Ingredient for sending me their napkins to try out.)
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ bunch fresh basil
- 2 eggplants (or 4 smaller baby eggplants)
- 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 14.5 ounce (400g) can of tomatoes
- 1 pound of gluten free penne pasta (I recommend Garafalo)
- creme fraiche, for serving.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius/180 degrees fan). Wash and chop the eggplants into ½-inch cubes. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil.
- Put the chopped eggplant in a large mixing bowl and drizzle over olive oil to coat the eggplant (the eggplant will absorb a good amount of oil, but that's okay -- just make sure you've covered it as well as possible). Season with salt and pepper and spread the eggplant in a single layer on to the lined baking sheet.
- Slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast the eggplant for 10 minutes, then remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn the eggplant cubes over with a wooden spoon. Return the eggplant back to the oven and roast for another 5-10 minutes until the eggplant is very soft.
- At this point you can either let the eggplant cool completely and then store it for a later time, or proceed to the next step.
- Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cut the basil into fine strips and set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cover, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so.
- Heat a second large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions.
- Add the tomatoes to the onion and garlic mixture in the saute pan, season well and bring to a steady simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are broken down and saucy.
- Add the eggplant, stir well and let simmer for another 1-2 minutes before removing from heat.
- Before removing the pasta from the stove to drain, use a ladle to scoop out a cup or so of the pasta cooking water and reserve in a heatproof bowl. Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the eggplant and tomato sauce. If the sauce feels too chunky or thick, add a little of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce a bit.
- Divide the pasta between plates and serve with the basil ribbons and a spoonful of creme fraiche.