Rigatoni with Eggplant Purée

Ingredients 

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
1 pound dried rigatoni pasta (also goes great with veggie noodles) 
1/4 cup torn fresh mint or basil leaves, plus a couple extra, slivered, to finish
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or (shown here) ricotta salata
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Directions

 

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2. In a large bowl combine the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (to taste). Spread the vegetables out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but a full minute shy of done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta but reserve a cups or so of the cooking water. 

4. Transfer the roasted vegetables — I use the parchment paper as a sling — to a food processor or blender. Add the torn mint or basil leaves and additional 3 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until almost smooth.

5. Return the pasta to the cooking pot, pour sauce over it and a splash (about 1/3 cup) of cooking water and cook together, tossing so that the pasta is evenly coated, over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add more pasta cooking water, one ladleful at a time, as needed, if needed to loosen the sauce.

6. Transfer pasta and sauce to a serving bowl; garnish with extra herbs, pine nuts, and parmesan or ricotta salata, and serve.

Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Giada Delaurentis