When food writer Francis Lam’s recipe appeared in Gourmet magazine more than a decade ago, it was called “Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Spaghetti,” a rather curious moniker. And one that doesn’t hint at how satisfying this rather homely dish—Italian peasant food at its best—really is. Whatever you call it, add it to your repertoire.
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
- Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme or oregano, chopped
- 1 cup vegetable stock or water
- 1 pound uncooked long pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine
- 2 tablespoons minced oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes
- 6 basil leaves, slivered
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
Lightly salt the slices of eggplant, stack them back together, and let them hang out for 20 minutes in a strainer. Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a wide, heavy saucepan over low heat and add the garlic cloves.
Dry off the eggplant and cut it into chunks. When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat it all with oil. Turn up the heat a little bit to mediumhigh, add the thyme, and stir. When the eggplant starts to turn translucent and soften, add the liquid and let it come to a boil, then turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while, so the bottom doesn’t scorch.
While the eggplant is softening, bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it, and cook the pasta to al dente. Check on the eggplant while the pasta cooks. The liquid should be mostly absorbed or reduced after about 20 minutes. Once the eggplant looks mashable, mash it up with a spoon and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. It should be silky-smooth and garlicky and humming with oil.
Drain the pasta and toss with the eggplant purée. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, and pepper and gild the lily with some more olive oil and a handful of cheese before serving.
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter — Recipe adapted from Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook (Ten Speed Press 2015)