This is a pantry-inspired pasta, one I made when the cupboard was almost bare. It's common to fry the eggplant for a pasta like this, but blanching it makes for a much lighter dish, and the texture works well with the balsamic. I usually have some fresh ricotta and a hunk of good grana padano to hand, but you could skip the ricotta if needs be.
3 large eggplants, alternately peeled in strips and cut into 3cm dice
500g dried orecchiette
100ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons tiny capers
3 handfuls fresh oregano leaves
250ml dry white wine
100ml decent quality balsamic vinegar
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
80g grana padano, finely grated
300g fresh ricotta (make your own: Karen Martini's ricotta recipe)
1. Cook the eggplant in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain well, gently pressing out any excess moisture.
2. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until just al dente.
3. Meanwhile, in a wide-based pot over medium heat, heat the oil for two minutes. Add the garlic, chilli, capers, anchovies and oregano and cook for two minutes. Add the eggplant, stir through, add the wine and cook until almost dry. Drizzle over the balsamic and cook out for a couple of minutes.
4. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water, and add to the pot. Stir through the pasta, adding a little of the cooking water and/or oil if needed. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, and stir through half the parmesan.
5. Serve in shallow bowls with the ricotta crumbled over the pasta and the remaining parmesan on the side.
1. When selecting eggplants choose firm, heavy ones.
2. You don't need to use the finest balsamic you can find, but one with a bit of depth and intensity makes a real difference to the result.
3. Buy ricotta fresh from the deli, rather than in a tub, or even better make your own. You can find my recipe here.