This dish evolved from an improvisation with leftovers. At the end of a busy week of recipe testing, my refrigerator was crammed with batches of an eggplant-tomato pasta dish and various versions of caramelized onions seasoned with fennel seeds and black olives. I simply mixed everything together, covered it with Parmesan and bread crumbs and produced this extremely flavorful gratin for a family supper. Here is a formalized version, worthy of company.
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 small eggplant (8 oz.), cut into 3/4-inch cubes (3 cups)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or low-sodium vegetable broth
- 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 2/3 cup kalamata olives (4 oz.), pitted
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
- 12 oz. dry rigatoni pasta (5 cups)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (2 oz.)
In large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and cook, turning often, until tender and browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to large plate and set aside.
Add another 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and reduce heat to medium. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until tender and lightly browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and fennel seeds; cook, stirring, 30 to 60 seconds. Add wine, reduce heat slightly and simmer 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes and mash with potato masher. Add crushed tomatoes, olives and reserved eggplant; simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and pepper. Transfer to large bowl and cool to room temperature.
Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat 13 x 9-inch or other 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray (see Note). In small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and remaining tablespoon oil. Set aside.
Add pasta to boiling water; stir to prevent sticking. Cook, stirring often, until barely tender, about 4 minutes. (Pasta will seem quite hard.) Drain and rinse under cold running water until thoroughly cool, then drain again.
Add pasta to tomato sauce; mix with rubber spatula. Scrape into prepared baking dish, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with pine nuts then with reserved breadcrumb mixture. (Gratin can be prepared ahead to this point. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before baking.)
Bake gratin, uncovered, until golden and bubbly, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
Note: If you have individual gratin dishes, this is a good opportunity to use them. Divide pasta mixture among dishes, taking care not to overfill, and reduce baking time slightly.
- Calories: 338
- Carbohydrate Content: 49 g
- Fat Content: 12 g
- Fiber Content: 5 g
- Protein Content: 10 g
- Saturated Fat Content: 2 g
- Sodium Content: 364 mg