This aubergine pasta dish was inspired by Sicilian Caponata. It is a delicious, tangy and heartwarming plate which has now become a staple in my kitchen. It is very easy to prepare and completely vegan if you skip the pecorino cheese at the end.
Obviously I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t add many of my own twists to it. So I added courgette and red pesto. And to my surprise, it worked really well! I made this quite few times and tried to perfect the recipe until I was completely happy with the result and now I would like to share this recipe with you.
Did you know that Botanically, aubergine is considered to be a berry, just like blueberries or tomatoes? It also has many international names which are popularly used around the world, some of them being: Berenjena in Spanish, Eggplant in US English, Patlican in Turkish and Melanzana in Italian.
Italians, particularly Sicilians cook Aubergines to perfection and they are found in numerous different local specialities like in Caponata, Melanzane Parmigiana or Pasta Alla Norma, just to mention a few.
The fruit was originally introduced to Sicily by the Arabs in the 9th century as they expanded their territory into Southern Italy and it is now a staple in the region’s cuisine.
Caponata, however, was my inspiration for this particular dish. Aubergine is slowly sauteed while vinegar and capers add those extra tangy flavours. Courgette and pesto add extra body and flavour making it a perfect winter comfort food.
Aubergine is a rich in dietary fibres, vitamins C, K and vitamins of the B group as well as minerals such as copper, phosphorus and magnesium. They are also rich in antioxidants, specifically nasunin found in aubergine skin – the reason for its purple colour. But most importantly, it is very tasty when prepared well so there are no excuses to not integrate it in your cooking.
If this is not your first visit here you are aware of how much I love Italy and Italian cuisine. And as I also love mixing things up I created this aubergine pasta fusion dish – I hope you will enjoy it.
- 1 large whole aubergine
- 1 medium courgette
- 1 large or two small stalks of celery
- 1 large onion (red is the best)
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons of tomato puree
- 3 teaspoons of red pesto
- olive oil/chilli oil
- 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of capers
- shaved pecorino cheese (parmesan or grana Padana will be just fine)
- few basil leafs
- salt and pepper to taste
- Italian herbs seasoning mix
This recipe takes around one hour to make and serves 2 people - roughly.
- Add 2 tablespoons of chilli oil to the pan. I like mine a bit spicy and I like to add the spice at the beginning. Use regular olive oil if chilli is not your thing.
- Chop the onion finely, add to skillet and saute over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt. This stops onion from burning. Chop the celery and add to the onion. Fry for another 5 minutes.
- Slice aubergine into medium chunks – around centimetre and a half. Add the aubergine to the onion and celery mixture and mix all the ingredients. Crush or finely chop the garlic and also add to the pan.
- Stir over medium heat until aubergines are soft and golden. Stir often. Aubergines should have nice soft consistency with some smaller chunks starting to fall apart slightly.
- Add balsamic vinegar and cook for a few minutes.
- Add tomato puree. Fresh tomatoes will be just fine. I, however, think the tomato puree creates more intense flavour.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Don’t oversalt it, however, as both pesto and pecorino will provide an additional salty taste later on.
- Set aside. We will cook courgettes and pesto separately to make sure all the ingredients are nicely separated and the sauce doesn’t become a mash.
- Slice courgette – first in half, then into little round half-moon-shaped slices.
- Use the same pan – add some more oil and fry courgettes with just a tiny bit of salt. When nicely golden add pesto and cook for around 3 minutes. Add the aubergine mixture and stir all the ingredients together. Add a few torn leaves of basil. The sauce is ready.
Cook your pasta al dente – firm to the bite and not overcooked. First bring the water to boil, add salt and a little bit of oil. Once the water boiled, add pasta and cook for around 6 to 8 minutes.
Mix the aubergine mixture with pasta, sprinkle with shaved pecorino and add few more basil leaves. For the vegan version, omit the cheese or use vegan Parmesan. Your Aubergine, Courgette and red pesto rigatoni is ready! Enjoy!