Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Penne con Pinoli e Melanzane

The beauty of Italian cooking is its simplicity – the way it can bring a few quality ingredients together and make an unforgettable meal. I do realise I’m not the first (or the most eloquent) person to make this observation, but I think this dish is a perfect example. Aubergine pasta – sounds boring, doesn’t it? Let me tell you, it is poetry.

The dish is a bit like caponata added to pasta. The original recipe is from Antonio Carluccio’s Complete Italian Food (though and it certainly had nothing to do with his bankruptcy). Some people really don’t like aubergine, but it’s one of my favourite veggies – when fried or baked until it’s soft, velvety and gooey, I really have to be alone with it.
It can be bitter, of course, but salting the slices, allowing them to drain for 20 minutes or so and then rinsing will take care of this. Carluccio suggests you soak the aubergine cubes in salted water for an hour, and I thought this a less fussy way to reduce bitterness.
I couldn’t restrain myself from adding anchovies, though the original recipe did not include them, and I thought the addition worked well. Naturally, I quadrupled the amount of garlic dear old Antonio recommended! (As with butter, I find it impossible – and quite unnecessary – not to be heavy handed with garlic.) This simple but sublime recipe is for all the aubergine fans out there. So, without further ado…

Penne with Pine Nuts and Aubergine
Serves 4

400g aubergine, cut into small cubes
90ml extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp tomato paste
8 anchovy fillets
25g pine nuts
2 heaped tbsp capers
1 small chili, finely chopped
20 black olives, stoned
400g penne
60g Pecorino (or Parmesan), freshly grated

Leave the aubergine cubes in lightly salted water for 1 hour, then drain, squeeze out the water and pat dry on paper towels. Fry them in the oil with the garlic until brown. Add the tomato paste, anchovies, pine nutes, capers, chilli and olives, and fry gently for 10 minutes. Add a little water if the mixture is too dry.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain and mix well with the sauce. Serve with the Pecorino.


  1. Mmmm that is right up my alley! I LOVE aubergine and I could send a vampire running with the copious amounts of garlic I consume.

  2. I also love italian food. Often simple,mostly stunning. What a country!

  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE anchovies in my pasta. Beautiful!

  4. Your pasta dish sounds amazing! thanks for sharing :)

  5. Mmmmm, let's hear it for the heavy hand with butter and garlic! I am always on the lookout for non-creamy pasta sauces that tempt me and this is certainly one of them - thanks for sharing!!