Caponata is a Sicilian dish typically consisting of eggplant, red peppers, and red onions. It’s usually served as a side-dish to some type of seafood. I decided to take inspiration from caponata and make a pasta dish using this delicious sauce.
The first step is to chop and roast 1 small eggplant and 1 large red pepper. This is the base of the caponata. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper for heat.
I roasted the eggplant and peppers for about 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven, just until they started to char and caramelize. The eggplant will shrink up and get slightly crisp around the edges. Resist the urge to eat them up as is!
Once the eggplant is roasted, I got started on the sauce. No offense to my naturalists, but I love working with store-bought tomato paste. It’s concentrated, consistent, and packed with great flavor. Unless you have amazing tomatoes on hand, I’d recommend lighting your load with a tube or can of tomato paste. Begin by slicing onions and frying them in olive oil. Once onions have begun to caramelize, add two cloves of minced garlic. Briefly fry the garlic before adding tomato paste. Then cook everything for about five minutes, browning the paste slightly. Season the sauce with salt and balsamic vinegar. Once the tomato paste has cooked, add a little water to thin it. And you’re done!
Now simply boil your pasta in well seasoned water, then toss it with the tomato sauce in the original fry pan, fold in your roasted red peppers and eggplant, and top with freshly chopped parsley and creamy goat cheese.
1 medium sized eggplant (cubed)
1 large red pepper
1 clove garlic plus 2 more
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly cracked black pepper
3 cups penne rigate
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 large red onion (sliced)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 oz goat cheese (1/2 a packet)
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Begin by peeling and chopping 1 eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Then chop one red pepper into equal sized squares. Toss with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Add one clove minced garlic and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Toss well. Spread evenly over baking sheet and roast in oven at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through. In the meantime, slice 1/2 red onion and chop garlic. Set aside. Fry red chili flakes in 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, in a large pot or wok, until slightly darker in color. Then Fry onions in same pot for about 5-10 minutes over medium-high temperature. Once onions have begun to brown, add chopped garlic and fry for about a minute before adding tomato paste. Then fry paste for about five minutes and add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Then add water, about 1/2 cup, and stir. Set aside.
Boil pasta in heavily salted water (about 1 tablespoon salt per 6-7 cups water) for about 10-11 minutes or until al dente. Reserve three ladles full of pasta water. Drain and set aside. Once eggplant has roasted, remove from oven and toss. Heat up pasta sauce and add cooked penne pasta and 1-2 ladles of pasta water. Toss to coat. Then fold in roasted eggplant and red peppers and continue to toss, sprinkling some parmesan cheese and about a tablespoon of goat cheese. Garnish with a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and a liberal amount of goat cheese. Serve and enjoy!