Pasta is a picnic staple for many Italian families, and it is for my family, too. For a picnic, I slightly increase the amount of olive oil to keep the pasta moist as it cools.
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp extra
1 large eggplant, cut into 1cm cubes
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
400g can whole cherry tomatoes
3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
500g dried fettuccine or spaghetti
½ cup (40g) grated pecorino
½ cup (40g) torn basil leaves
1. Heat a heavy casserole (preferably cast iron) over medium heat and add the ½ cup of olive oil. Fry the eggplant for about 6 minutes until well browned. The eggplant will absorb all the oil at first, but as it cooks and browns it will release the oil back into the pan. Once cooked, remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and add the garlic, frying for a minute until fragrant, then add the cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes together with 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. While the tomatoes are simmering, boil the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture, plus the reserved water and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the eggplant and stir well to combine. Season with salt (if needed) and pepper and scatter with the pecorino and basil leaves.
3. The pasta will keep warm in a heavy cast-iron casserole with the lid on for 2-3 hours, but it can be eaten warm or at room temperature. It's not bad cold, either.
Also try: my two-metre banh mi recipe