out of the frying pan: tomato, eggplant, feta, broccolini and basil pasta
There’s a mentality towards food that you see in a lot of Greek and Italian recipes where you respect your ingredients enough to let them shine on their own. It’s an understanding that there’s really no need to mess with a good thing in order to make it taste magnificent.
It’s incredibly satisfying knowing that a dish can reach its full potential with nothing more than the zippy punch of a few cloves of garlic, or the salty burn of a few anchovies; the mellow fragrance of a glug of good red wine, or the surprisingly strong hum of a couple of bay leaves.
This pasta dish takes almost no time at all to cook, and just a little bit of extra preparation time for the eggplant. Roma tomatoes result in a nice rich sauce even if they’re the somewhat lacklustre supermarket variety, and you get a lovely variation in texture from the crunch of broccolini to the creaminess of melted feta.
This also works well as a base tomato sauce and can be added to and tinkered with in any way you please, replacing the eggplant with olives and the feta with grated parmesan, or adding anchovies or capers for a more bold flavour.
6-8 Roma tomatoes, diced
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
60g Greek feta
1 bunch broccolini, chopped
400g penne or other short pasta
1 large handful of fresh basil
salt and pepper for seasoning
1. Peel and slice eggplant around 1.5 cm thick. Lay out on absorbent paper and sprinkle with salt. Leave with salt on for at least an hour, then rinse and pat dry. This process is supposed to draw out some of the bitterness in the eggplant.
2. Chop eggplant into cubes and fry lightly in a little olive oil on a medium heat until it’s mostly cooked. Set aside on absorbent paper.
3. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the pasta. You should be able to get the sauce finished by the time the pastas done cooking.
4. In another frying pan, add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and gently fry garlic and chilli. Add the tomato and fry for a minute or so, seasoning with a little freshly ground black pepper. Then add the eggplant and broccolini, frying gently until the eggplant is fully cooked. With the cooking it’s already had it shouldn’t take longer than three minutes or so.
5. Remove from the heat and crumble in the feta, letting it melt into the sauce, and then tear in the basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Drain the pasta and stir into your sauce.
7. Fantastic served with extra basil and feta on top.