Pennette pasta with baby plum tomatoes, aubergines, mozzarella di bufala and basil
I flipping love aubergines. Once grilled, baked or barbecued these purple beauties transform from a strange tasting sponge to melt-in-the-mouth creamy deliciousness.
I also love instagram – it has brought me into a new world of brilliant foodies. I always thought aubergines need to be fried in lots of oil to get the best flavour, but a few Middle Eastern food instagrammers I follow grill or bake their slices of aubergine to cut down on the amount of oil. If it works for these supreme experts, then I knew it would work for this Sicilian style pasta dish.
Pasta alla Norma is a Sicilian pasta recipe made with tomatoes and aubergines, but instead of mozzarella, Ricotta Salata is used (a hard, slightly salty mature version of the tubs of soft ricotta). However…….as it’s only possible to buy this ricotta in lovely cheese shops and not in a supermarket where we all have to shop, I’ve substituted with mozzarella (basically, because I love it!).
Pennette pasta with baby plum tomatoes, aubergines, mozzarella di bufala and basil Ingredients 2 aubergines 450g baby plum tomatoes cut in half (M&S Santini variety is the best) 2 clove of garlic finely chopped 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 4 tablespoons fresh basil chopped 400g pasta (good quality Italian pasta – I use Giuseppe Cocco) 3-4 tablespoons of pasta water 1 pot of mozzarella di bufala (approx. 125g) Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
First grill the aubergines; remove the tops of the aubergine and cut into 2cm deep slices. Place the slices on a foil covered grill pan. Brush each slice with a little olive oil. Set the grill to high and place the grill pan with the aubergines about 12cms below the heat element. Grill until the aubergines turn brown (approx. 5 minutes), then turn over to grill the other side. Once browned, set the aubergines to the side to be added to the tomato sauce later.
Place a large pan that can hold a good 3 litres of water onto a high heat. When the water starts to boil add a teaspoon of salt and all the pasta.
Put a dry medium size frying pan on a low heat to warm up as you get the ingredients ready. Add the remaining extra virgin olive oil to the warm pan and fry the chopped garlic for about 20 seconds. Do not let it brown and release any bitterness.
Add the halved baby plum tomatoes and stir. Increase the heat to high to start breaking down the tomatoes and release their juices. Stir and press down on the tomatoes with a wooden spatula to hurry up the cooking. The tomato sauce is ready when all the tomatoes have broken down and released a lot of tomato juice to create a sauce.
Add the grilled aubergines, stir carefully (the aubergines are very soft and will easily break apart) and leave to simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat off; add all the chopped basil and stir.
When the pasta is cooked al dente (soft on the outside but slightly hard in the middle), lift the pasta out of its water with a pasta spoon and put it into the pan with the sauce. Add a 3-4 tablespoons of pasta water to help create a sauce (the starch in the pasta water thickens the sauce).
Break up the mozzarella di buffalo with your fingers and drop pieces into the pasta and gently stir through. Serve immediately with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Preparation time 10 minutes, grilling 10 minutes, cooking 10 minutes, 2 adult portions, 2 child portions