Family meal time during the weekdays is unfortunately a tough one to make happen for us, given everyone’s super hectic and unpredictable schedule. Sunday Suppers are sacred for us and get our week off to a good start. Usually it’s just us, but periodically we have close friends over for a catch up and a delicious meal. A few Sundays ago we took a trip to Italy and made a classic Jamie Oliver recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks – Jamie’s Dinners.
Stacie would love this meal (it’s right up her alley) and I thought of her several times during the meal and how much she would enjoy it. The pasta recipe though a bit involved, is a keeper and a perfect one for a comforting family Sunday Supper. Also, it is a great/sneaky way to get the kiddos to try and enjoy eggplant since it totally gets mushed up. The salad with bitter radicchio and endives is a bit of an acquired taste, but it is the perfect complement to the pasta.
Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant and Mozzerella by Jamie Oliver
- 1 firm ripe pink, black, or white eggplant
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- Two 14-ounce cans good-quality plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 fresh or dried chiles, chopped or crumbled (optional)
- 1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves ripped, sprigs sliced
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 pound rigatoni or penne
- 7 ounces cow’s-milk mozzarella
- 1 piece Parmesan cheese, for grating
- Trim both ends of the eggplant and slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Chop the slices into 1/2-inch dice. (Some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but don’t really do this unless dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. This dish is really best made using a firm, silky one.)
- Place a large saucepan over medium heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant and as soon as it hits the pan stir with a spoon so the pieces become delicately coated with the oil on all sides and not soaked on just a single side. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 or 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and onion and cook, still stirring occasionally, until they take on a little color.
- Add the tomatoes and vinegar, stir them around, and season with salt and pepper. At this point, if you want to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chilli (if using). Add the basil sprigs and simmer the sauce nice and gently for about 15 minutes. By this time the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy, tomatoe-y pulp, which is just yummy! If desired, fish out the basil sprigs. Stir in the cream.
- Meanwhile, while the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, or until it’s soft but still holding its shape. Drain the pasta, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle olive oil and move it around so it becomes sorta dressed with the water and oil.
- At this point, add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste. When all my guests are sitting round the table, I take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the basil leaves, and gently fold these, tossing and stirring things about for 30 seconds. Then I very quickly heap out portions into bowls.
By the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have begun to melt, so it will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting and just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. Set out a block of Parmesan cheese and a grater so that everyone can help themselves.
Insalata Di Radicchio e Noci – Radicchio and Walnut Salad
This is not a particularly kid-friendly salad, given the bitter vegetables used. However, do have them try it and make them some other simple salad or vegetables. I love this salad and envision many variations of it. I found it in an Italian cookbook that I borrowed from the library and cannot for the life of me remember it’s name. Sorry!
1 lb red Trevisio radicchio (I also added some endive)
1 1/2 cups walnuts, shelled
1/2 pound fontina cheese, diced (used less)
Make vinaigrette with 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 2 tsp Dijon mustard and salt to taste.