Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Pasta Paesana

Penne, Melanzane alla Griglia, Pomodori, Olive & Ricotta Salata
Penne with Grilled Eggplant, Tomatoes, Olives and Salted Ricotta

I am calling this simple dish that I put together, "pasta paesana", because it reminds me of Sicily, my "paese", the land of my parents, my ancestors and essentially my history. Though I was born in England, whenever I speak to family about visiting my parents, it is always referred to as visiting "u paese"- "the town", "the country" (Sicily)... the one and only possible place that can ever really matter. Home. Even if I have never lived there... if any Sicilian anywhere in the world has never actually lived in the place of birth of their parents- it is always "u paese"... it is always "home".

And even if my mamma never made pasta like this- it has many of the flavors characteristic to Sicilian cuisine- eggplant, garlic, tomato, salted ricotta, basil and ground chili... wonderful ingredients to add to any pasta and create a fresh and vibrant dish that will please one and all on a hot Summer's night! Starting of course on this hot and sultry evening... with me, myself, yours truly!

I was neither in the mood to fuss too much over supper, nor to be stuck in front of a hot stove for too long- so the good news is, that this was a very quick dish to prepare. One saucepan to boil the penne, one grill-pan to prepare the mini-eggplants and that was it. Oh, a little chopping and a little grating- but nothing too drastic- lol! All kidding aside- this was a very, very easy dish to make...

First things first- I brought my water to the boil for the penne and at the same time began heating the grill pan, adding just a light drizzle of olive oil. In the meantime, I cut 4 mini eggplants each into 4 slices and laid them out on the grill pan, letting them sizzle away for 2-3 minutes without touching them. I did sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and then, after 3 minutes, pressed them down firmly to make sure they got some nice scorch-marks before flipping them over. 

Once I had flipped the eggplant, I added a little more oil and a little (maybe half a clove) of finely chopped garlic. I stirred the eggplant through and let the garlic cook, soften and infuse into the eggplant. After a minute or so, I set it to one side in a bowl and drained the penne, which by now were nicely "al dente".

Whilst the pasta was cooling slightly, I finely chopped a Spring onion and 4-5 black olives and  added them, stirring them in well and then gently adding the eggplant. I then cut 4-5 cherry tomatoes into quarters and added them, along with a good handful of fresh basil, which I chopped very coarsely- not to fine and added them into the mix, with the penne and everything else...

A good sprinkle of both grated salted ricotta cheese and flaked, dry chili, along with one last, light drizzle of olive oil before serving, were the perfect finishing touches, to bring all of the wonderful flavors of "The Old Country" together into a full and more than satisfying composition... trust me- you're going to love it!

This is about as good as it gets in Sicilian cooking- just 3-4 great, simple ingredients and strong, fresh flavors... no fuss- just flavor! And colors to die for! Just please don't!!! Stick around a while longer... I have so much more to show you all! So enjoy!

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