- 1 pound small, firm eggplant
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 pound whole wheat or whole grain rigatoni rigate or other short-cut rigate pasta
- 2 small, firm zucchini (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
- Flour, for coating
- 3 large cloves garlic, grated or chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- A couple of sprigs rosemary, finely chopped, or a healthy teaspoon dried leaves
- A few sprigs thyme, finely chopped, or a scant teaspoon dried leaves
- About 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 large roasted red pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28 ounce can plum tomatoes in puree
- Crushed red pepper (optional)
- A handful fresh basil, chopped or torn
- A handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for grating and passing around the table
1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Halve the eggplant and score the exposed flesh with shallow crisscross cuts. Drizzle or lightly brush the cut surface with EVOO and season with salt and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet cut side down and roast until tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
3. While the pasta is working, season the zucchini with salt and black pepper. Let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate for a few minutes. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the zucchini in flour. Working in batches, add the zucchini to the pan and cook, turning, until light golden, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Add 1 clove garlic with the last batch. In a large, deep skillet or heavy saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 cloves garlic and the onion and season with the rosemary, thyme, salt and black pepper. Cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Using a food processor, mix the chicken stock, roasted pepper and tomato paste until smooth. Stir into the onion mixture and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Stir in the canned tomatoes and crush with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Return the sauce to a boil for a minute or so. Season with the crushed red pepper, if using. Lower the heat to a simmer.
5. Remove the eggplant from the oven. Scoop out the flesh and add to the food processor. Puree for 20 seconds and add to the marinara sauce. Toss the pasta with the marinara sauce and top with the basil, parsley, fried zucchini and a flurry of grated cheese. Pass more cheese around the table.