Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pasta with Eggplant, Mushrooms, and Roasted-Garlic Tomato Sauce

This easy vegetarian pasta dish is rich and meaty with chunks of pan-simmered eggplant and crimini (baby portobello) mushrooms. And if you love garlic—or if you consider it the stuff of life as I do—you’ll savor the robust garlicky flavor of the tomato sauce simmered with six creamy, caramelized garlic cloves.

Here’s the nub: Slow-roasting unpeeled garlic—whole bulbs or loose cloves—draws out the depth of its flavor and makes it creamy enough to squeeze out of the peel like toothpaste. Even canned tomatoes take on a rich, earthy flavor after a slow simmer with the roasted garlic.

One other note: Simmering eggplant breaks down the chunks and adds to the thickness of the sauce. You won’t see big pieces of it in your bowl, but that great eggplant flavor permeates the dish and you’ll know it’s there.

Serves 4

  • 6 large unpeeled garlic cloves
  • olive oil for drizzling, plus 3 tbsp, divided
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 28-oz can of stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 small eggplant, about 12 oz, peeled and cubed
  • 8 oz rotini
  1. Preheat the oven (or toaster oven) to 300° F. Place the garlic cloves on a small piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and roast until very tender, about 45 minutes.
Garlic Ready to Roast
Roasted Garlic
  1. Remove and let rest until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the garlic pulp into a small bowl and discard the peels.
Roasted Garlic Squeezed from Peels 
  1. Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the shallot and sauté 3 minutes, until just tender.
  2. Add the tomatoes, roasted garlic, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook slowly 1 hour.
Cooked Roasted-Garlic Tomato Sauce
  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water 9 minutes and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the mushrooms and eggplant and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and the eggplant has broken down, about 10 minutes.
Eggplant and Mushrooms Beginning to Cook
Cooked Eggplant and Mushrooms
Cooked Eggplant and Mushrooms, Liquid Absorbed
  1. Add the garlicky tomato sauce to the skillet and simmer 5 minutes. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss well to combine.
Cooked Vegetable and Tomato Sauce
  1. Divide the pasta among 4 shallow bowls and serve right away.

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