I realize that this picture isn't as pretty as it could be, but trust me, this tasted AMAZING! I love eggplant, and especially eggplant parmesan, which is often my go-to dish at certain Italian restaurants. But, a few weeks ago, when friends were in town visiting, we had dinner at Cafe Strega, on Main St. in Plymouth and in the same building as my office. It was my first time in since we'd moved into our new office, well over a year ago and the manager teased me about that as we settled in. I had of course visited the bar a few times, but hadn't yet come in for dinner. I told him if they were open for lunch he'd probably see us constantly. Though it's a good thing for our waistlines that they are not open for lunch. :)
We shared an antipasto appetizer and an order of meatballs that were fantastic, but I hit the jackpot with the pasta dish I ordered, which was called Eggplant Siciliana and if I'd been alone I would have been tempted to lick my plate, it was that good. It reminded me of inside-out eggplant parm, without the fried breading, as it was a jumble of diced, sauteed eggplant that was meltingly tender and tossed with a bright tomato sauce, penne pasta and fresh mozzarella, which melted into the sauce so the whole effect was creamy comfort food.
I'd been craving it ever since and almost ordered it to go last night after work as it was windy and rainy and a great night to curl up inside. But, I had bought a nice eggplant the day before at the farmer's market and had stumbled onto the perfect recipe to re-create this dish in one of my favorite cookbooks, Marcella Says...by Marcella Hazan.
I adapted the recipe just a hint by serving the parmesan on the side, and adding more tomatoes to make it a bit saucier.
Inside-Out Eggplant Parmesan Pasta
1 Medium eggplant, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups tomatoes in juice (I used crushed Muir Glen)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin strips
1 box penne pasta
parmesan for sprinkling
Method: heat oil in 10" skillet over high heat. When hot, add eggplant and stir well for several minutes until eggplant is evenly coated and softened. Add tomatoes, salt and crushed pepper and reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until eggplant is soft and tender, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook pasta and when done, drain and set aside. Turn heat off under eggplant, stir in mozzarella and then penne until well coated. Serve with parmesan, and enjoy!