Caramelized Onion, Tomato, and Eggplant Pasta
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I don’t know about you, but I’m up to my eyeballs in eggplants here. My CSA delivery last week could have fed a small village, and I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed. Overwhelmed in a good way though. I mean, I’ve been eating my way though a very delicious eggplant chapter in Chez Panisse Vegetables, so far delighting in eggplant gratin with tomato and onion, and roasted eggplant and tomato pizza. I know, it’s been rough.
But this pasta. Oooooh, this pasta. This pasta recipe unexpectedly has eclipsed its chapter companions, its deliciousness attributed to perfectly ripe eggplant, the freshest tomato sauce, sweet basil, caramelized onions, and above all to a most unsuspecting ingredient: sherry vinegar. I don’t know how just a splash of anything could so transform a dish, giving it a depth of flavor that subtly persists through layers of tomatoes and eggplant and onions, but somehow the sherry vinegar has.
There’s something, too, about the way the roasted eggplant melds with the caramelized onions and the tomato sauce that makes cheese totally unnecessary. No cheese on pasta, you ask? Hogwash, you shout! I mean it. This roasted eggplant tomato sauce spiced with crushed red pepper flakes and freshened with basil was enough for me. I even had some homemade ricotta in the fridge. I even had a bowl of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano sitting inches from my plate throughout dinner. I had no trouble refraining.
While I know a bowl of hot pasta perhaps isn’t crossing your mind very often in late summer, eggplants are reaching their peak right about now, and they are oh so good. Give this recipe a go. It’s a keeper for sure.
Finally, if you like summer pastas, you will love this orecchiette with Quick Sautéed Cherry Tomato Sauce.Print
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
- 1 to 2 globe eggplants, diced to yield 4 to 6 cups
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 onion, thinly sliced to yield about 2 cups
- 3/4 lb. pasta such as Gemelli or whatever you like best
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or sliced
- red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons sherry (or other) vinegar
- 2 cups tomato sauce (I like this tomato-basil sauce or Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce)
- handful fresh basil
- ricotta salata cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the eggplants into cubes about 3/4-inch square, toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan (parchment-lined, if you wish, for easy cleanup). Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until the eggplant is light brown and tender.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Cook the pasta al dente.
- Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the onions over medium heat. Season with salt and sauté over medium to medium-low heat until the onions are just caramelized, 20 minutes to 25 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds; then deglaze with the sherry vinegar. Add the tomato sauce and eggplant. Heat the sauce to simmering. Drain the pasta, add it to the tomato sauce pan, and toss gently. Taste. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
- To finish, add the basil and stir to combine. Serve the pasta with shaved cheese over the top and more pepper if you wish, too.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: pasta, eggplant, tomato, caramelized, onions, summer, vinegar, sherry