Bucatini con Melanzane Spappolate -- Pasta in Chunky Eggplant Sauce
Our My Kitchen My World destination for the month of September is Italy and we are focusing on regional Italian cuisine. I adore Italian foods and love learning more about the different regions of countries everywhere so I was very excited to give this a go. I have a few regional Italian cookbooks and used the book, Rustico -- Regional Italian Country Cooking for this cooking quest. One recipe that immediately caught my eye was Bucatini con Melanzane Spappolate from the region of Calabria, right at the toe bottom of the boot of Italy...
I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, including two lovely eggplants that my mom brought over from her garden. This was the first time I've ever had an eggplant sauce like this, with the eggplant essentially mashed up -- spappolate is derived from spappolare which means to crush, mash, or pulp in Italian. This ended up being a delicious lunch that I wouldn't hesitate to make again, I think the sauce would be delicious with any pasta and also wonderful with spaghetti squash, which I plan to make it with next time.
Bucatini con Melanzane Spappolate
Bucatini in Chunky Eggplant Sauce
adapted from Rustico -- Regional Italian Country Cooking by Micol Negrin
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped (I used roasted garlic cloves, smashed)
3/4 pounds eggplant, peel on, cut into 1/4 x 1/4 x 3-inch strips
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced (I used 1 pound of canned imported San Marzano tomatoes, and forgot to chop them, just ended up mashing them in a potato masher)
1 teaspoon minced oregano
12 basil leaves, torn
1 pound bucatini (long hollow spaghetti type noodles, also called perciatelli from what I've read)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch saute pan over a medium flame. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, then add the eggplant, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.
Cook, stirring often, for 25 minutes, or until soft.
Crush the eggplant with a fork into a coarse puree while it is still in the pan, then add the tomatoes and oregano and cook 5 minutes more.
Stir in the basil and keep the sauce warm.
Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the bucatini and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. (Side note -- my pasta box said cooking time was 11 minutes for al dente, so be sure to taste test the pasta before you drain, you do not want it underdone, mine had to cook for about 12 minutes and was still plenty al dente!) Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Toss the bucatini and sauce in a bowl.
Dilute with enough of the reserved cooking water to coat the bucatini and serve hot, dusted with the Pecorino.
If you are an eggplant / tomato / pasta fan, I bet you would enjoy this southern Italian dish too! Can't wait to browse through my cookbooks and try some more regional Italian cuisine!