Luciano is in Melbourne for a workshop, so we gathered up most of the old lab from UQ to come over to our place for wine and chat with him this evening. He was eating dinner at the workshop, so I wanted to make something for the rest of us to have before he arrived, but I also wanted to avoid any frantic or stressful cooking on a Tuesday night. Solution: a giant pot of pasta, served with a not-quite-so-giant side dish of green beans. Ted and I got home and started cooking a bit after 6 pm, and served this up a bit after 7 (and had loads of time to sit about on the couch for a while in between).
I really like the way the eggplant is cooked here. I think cutting it into long wedges and then slices, so that each piece of eggplant has skin on one side and so holds together nicely, works well. And then just chucking it in the oven to roast, rather than sauteeing it, leaves each piece with a little bit of crispy-chewiness, and doesn’t result in it soaking up litres of olive oil. The fact that it requires no stirring or other attention while it cooks is just an added bonus.
Fusilli with tomato, chorizo and roast eggplant
4 medium-large eggplants
aged red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
2 onions, peeled, quartered and sliced
4 cured chorizo (Saskia Beer’s Black Pig chorizo is great)
1 sachet tomato paste
1 ultra-gigantor glass of red wine
3 x 400g cans of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 x 700g jar of passata
1 kg good quality fusilli
Heat the oven to 180 C. Cut the top off each eggplant. Slice each eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter into half lengthwise again. You should have eight equal-sized long wedges. Cut the wedges crosswise into pieces about 1.5 cm wide. You should now have lots of little triangular pieces of eggplant, each with skin on one end. Spread the eggplant out across four oven trays (you might need to do this in a couple of goes unless you have a very large oven). The pieces can touch each other a bit, but should not be piled up, or they will steam rather than roast. Drizzle the eggplant with some olive oil and red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Note that the eggplant doesn’t have to be drenched in oil! Just a decent drizzle is fine. Put the trays in the oven and leave to cook 20-30 minutes, until the pieces are cooked through and browning on the edges. No need to toss them part way through cooking. Once they’re cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until they’re soft and golden. Cut each chorizo in half lengthwise, and then into 1.5 cm pieces. Add the chorizo and the tomato paste to the onions, and cook another couple of minutes. Then add the red wine, tinned tomatoes, and passata. Stir together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a rolling simmer. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce has come together and is a bit reduced. Add the cooked eggplant and cook another minute or two.
Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. Combine the pasta and the sauce, and serve at once.
Serves 10-12 people with a vegetable on the side or salad to follow.