This week's recipe was inspired by the weekly recipe contest on food52, which urged us home cooks to find your best recipe using fresh mozzarella. Although my favorite use of fresh mozzarella is a simple caprese salad (a little cliched, perhaps, but delicious like tiramisu), I wanted to try something using ciliegine, which are tiny fresh mozzarella balls. I wasn't sure if this recipe would actually be realized since I kept popping them into my mouth on the walk home from the grocery store. I had beautiful Italian eggplant from Russo & Son's inimitable grocery store in Watertown. I've also been trying to eat through my cupboard in preparation for my iminent move to Worcester, so the boxes of pasta must be eaten and all the bags of Trader Joe's nuts be consumed! Et voila, with a little inspiration from Jerry Traunfeld, this recipe was born.
Another nice addition to this recipe would be some halved cherry tomatoes for an extra bit of color and a little crunch. I used tri-colored rotini, but whole wheat penne would be delicious too.
Pasta with Eggplant, Walnut Pesto, and Ciliegine
- 2 Italian eggplants, in 1 inch cubes
- 4 large garlic cloves (unpeeled!)
- ~4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1 cup dried pasta, like penne or rotini
- 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- 8 ciliegine, halved
- Preheat oven to 400. In a large baking dish, spread eggplant with garlic cloves in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 T olive oil or until you can evenly coat the cubes by tossing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until eggplant is tender, 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
- Roughly chop walnuts and set aside in a small bowl. Finely chop basil and add to bowl with remaining 2 T olive oil.
- When eggplant is tender, remove garlic cloves and peel. Roughly chop garlic and add to walnuts and basil.
- In a serving bowl (or you can use the pot you used to cook the pasta), toss together the eggplant, pasta, walnut-basil sauce, and ciliegine. Season with salt & pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.