Life has been busy around here lately. That’s why one of my goals for the month was to slow down a bit, because in July our social calendar got a little out of hand at times. And while I feel like I’ve had more time at home so far this month and have had some room to breathe, we’ve also undertaken building a fence, which means that we have been working hard. Well mostly Gerrit has been working hard, although I did do my part in helping to set posts and was pretty good with a mallet in knocking out some slats that got messed up.
Dinner, however, has been a little spotty. Mostly we have been having rotisserie chicken and eating pasta. We have also ordered pizza for all of our wonderful family members who have helped us with our project. But since our anniversary a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t done much in the kitchen that is complicated. I haven’t felt the motivation in a month where I am trying to slow down. Also, why do I want to cook a complicated meal when it is late summer (although definitely almost fall!) and instead I could spend my time making the best chocolate ice cream (coming soon! promise!).
This little pasta dish, however, is an exception. I have really wanted to be obsessed with pesto this summer. In the spring, when we planted out little basil plant, I was full of pesto plans. Unfortunately though, our basil plant didn’t quite agree with us and it wasn’t until just a couple of weeks ago that it started taking off and producing enough leaves that I can trim a cup or so off without worrying that I might kill it.
So now, now that summer is almost over (school started here this week) and I can tell in the sunlight that fall is coming, now we can start obsessing over pesto. And this is a great dish to do it with.
We all know how pasta and pesto work out, but here we add in some eggplant, which, when you bite down on it almost seems like its own little sauce. The eggplant is creamy and delicate, and the pesto makes the flavor of it all pop (but still with enough friendliness for picky eaters like me).
Pasta with Eggplant and Basil Pesto
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
For the pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
For the pasta:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 lb. pasta*
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided in half
1. Begin by toasting the pine nuts for the pesto. Spread nuts in an even layer in a small dry saute pan. Toast over medium heat, stirring often until they are golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Watch them carefully, because they burn easily. Once they are toasted, remove from heat.
2. In a food processor, combine the basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and pine nuts. Pulse until finely chopped. Then gradually add the oil in a small stream while the machine is running. Add the cheese and pulse just until it is incorporated. The mixture should be thick. Set aside.
3. To cook the eggplant, add 1/4 cup olive oil to a medium-sized saute pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, turning the eggplant often, until it is golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.
4. While the eggplant is cooking, boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente (the pasta is soft but still with a bit of a bite to it).
5. Drain the pasta (but keep about 1 cup of the pasta water) and place in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the pasta, and toss until the cheese is melted.
6. When the eggplant is finished cooking, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Add the pesto sauce, stirring until the eggplant is coated. Then add the eggplant and pesto sauce to the pasta. Toss until the pasta is coated. If needed, add 1/2 to 1 cup of the pasta water to thin the sauce out. Top the pasta with 1/2 cup cheese and serve warm.
*I used linguine, but I think you should use whatever pasta you prefer here, short or long.