Sunday, January 18, 2009

Handmade Pasta with Eggplant and Fresh Tomatoes

This sauce is best when the pasta is homemade (worth the effort).

Two small eggplants
olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 handful fresh basil torn into small pieces
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
black pepper

fresh pasta (tagliatelle is best)
3 eggs


Preparing the eggplants:
Cut the stems and navels off the eggplants. Cut into 1/4 in. thick slices, sprinkle with salt, and stand upright in a colander for 40 minutes to drain off the juices. Blot the salt from the slices with paper towels. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with olive oil, place on baking sheets and roast for about 10-15 minutes. The time may vary, but just be sure to roast them until they are golden brown. Once cooled, dice and set aside.

Making the pasta:
While the eggplants are draining or roasting, heat a pot full of water and whisk 3 eggs in a bowl. Slowly stir in 1 and 2/3 cups of flour to the egg mix. You can use either all all-purpose flour or a mix of half semolina/half all-purpose. I find it easier to do the mixing in a bowl rather than on a counter. Stir until the mixture can be worked with your hands. Dump contents of bowl on a well floured surface and knead with your hands until it is elastic (about 5 minutes) adding flour as needed. Separate the dough into palm sized balls, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 20-30 minutes. Flatten 1/4 in. thick rectangles and run through a pasta machine progressing from the thickest to thinnest settings until you have long sheets. Be sure to run the sheets though the first settings several times, folding in half before each pass. You may need to cut these long sheets in half after the last pass, before you pass though the tagliatelle setting on your machine. I place the pasta on a laundry drying rack until I cook them. You may need to do all this while cooking the sauce. When the water is boiling, add a generous pinch of salt and return to a boil. Add the pasta to the water when the sauce is done. The pasta will take a mere 1-2 minutes to cook. Take out before it is completely done, as it will cook in the colander while it drains. 

Making the sauce:
Warm olive oil in a large skillet over med-low heat. Add garlic and saute until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir well. Simmer until excess water evaporates (about 15 minutes). Add diced eggplant, mozzarella, and pepper and toss well. Turn off heat, cover pan for several minutes until mozzarella is softened. Add the fresh pasta to the sauce and serve.

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