Pasta is always a great comfort food. Just don’t use chicken!
The world is experiencing a very difficult time right now. I hope you are all safe, well, and staying out of public areas. In the meantime, it seems that a lot of us are cooking up a storm. Everyone is on the prowl for new recipes as we are having to cook far more than we did before when we were footloose and fancy-free. This eggplant, speck, and fresh tomato sauce is very comforting to eat, and also very easy to make. It is also very adaptable. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, used canned, or pureed tomatoes. If you don’t have eggplant, try it with zucchini. If you don’t have walnuts, just leave them out or add some other kind of nut in their place. If you don’t have speck, use bacon, or ham. Just don’t use chicken. Most Italians hate it when you use chicken in a pasta sauce. I still haven’t worked out why it’s so horrendous to join chicken and pasta, but as I have an Italian living in my house, I can’t even make it behind closed doors to figure out the reason for this mysterious food rule.
To salt or not to salt
I used to always cut up my eggplant, put it in a colander with salt, then let it sit for an hour or two before using it so that all the bitterness would seep out. It turned out that many times that I wanted to use eggplant (aubergine), I would have forgotten to do this step and then was at a loss as to what to make for the upcoming meal. One fateful day when I felt like taking enormous risks, I just used it anyway (yes, my life is pretty low-risk, as you can see). Do you know what? For my taste-buds, it didn’t make one iota of difference. From that time on, I have never salted another eggplant. It certainly made cooking life a lot simpler. My risk-taking capacity hasn’t risen much from that moment though. I’m still not planning to try parachuting or base-jumping any time in the near future.
Spice the sauce up!
If you like to feel the burn when you eat pasta, go ahead and sprinkle in some chili flakes. Now, this is actually another Italian food rule that’s a no-no: chili and cheese should never be mentioned in the same sentence. I’m waiting for the lightning to come and strike me for that one. Sometimes, I manage to get away with it when I’m cooking, and nobody gets their knickers in a knot about it. In fact, I make pizza every week in my outdoor wood oven and my favourite pizza topping recently has become spicy Chorizo and Gorgonzola cheese. I don’t make anyone else in the family eat it though. Don’t tell anyone I told you about this….they may take my Italian passport off me. It is really delicious though!
Travel photo of the week
The only type of travel we can do right now is virtual, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look at beautiful places, does it! The photo below was taking last Spring in Urbino in the region of Italy to the east called Le Marche. We went there to visit friends. I wasn’t expecting anything much as I knew very little about this area. I was blown away with how beautiful it was! This is a secret that Italy has kept under its hat for way too long. Even though it was Easter and prime tourist season, there were only Italians around, which doesn’t often happen in Italy. Go there……when you are able to again!
Pasta with Eggplant, Speck, Walnuts, and Fresh Tomato
- 200 g short pasta (penne, fusilli)
- 1/2 onion
- 1 eggplant medium-sized
- 75 g speck or bacon
- 2 tomatoes medium-sized
- 6 walnut kernels
- 60 ml olive oil 1/4 cup
- 20 g Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Chop the onion finely. Chop the eggplant into small cubes. Chop the tomato into small pieces. If needed, cut the speck or bacon into thin strips. Crumble the walnut halves.
- Put a large pot of water on to boil.
- Heat a 4 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and eggplant cubes. Stir frequently until they start to brown slightly.
- Add the speck or bacon. Stir frequently while it is cooking.
- Once the water in the big pot boils, add salt, then cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet.
- Add the chopped tomatoes to the frying pan mix. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until the eggplant is cooked through. Add the crumbed walnuts. Note: if the pasta hasn’t finished cooking yet, turn the heat under the frying pan down to low to keep the sauce warm.
- Drain the pasta when it is at it’s al dente stage. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to the big pot. Tip the pasta back in. Scrape the eggplant sauce over the pasta and mix well.
- Sprinkle the grated Parmesan Cheese over the pasta and mix in.
- Eat immediately.