The New York Times demands that we only attempt this recipe in summer. The New York Times Cooking website is no sexy Nigella Lawson telling you to just put as much of that minxy little garlic in your pasta as you want. The NYT Cooking website is no Rachel Ray letting her dog lick her hand clean and then using that hand to scoop jam out of jar. And the NYT is certainly no Ina Garten just dropping as many sticks of butter into a salad as Jeffrey can find. You obey the NYT Cooking website as though she were your OBGYN telling you not move during an exam. You do what she says.
Usually, she’s right. Tweaking will only be to your own detriment. But for this recipe, we have to tweak. I made it once and it was wildly bland. After a few tweaks, I found it absolutely delicious though. I do agree with Ms. Perfect on one thing – this recipe must only be used in summer (when tomatoes are ripe). Other than that, let’s go hog on mixing things up.
The main difference is that we will be using more tomatoes, more capers and adding mushrooms.
After dinner, we kept the Summer theme going as we watched Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later which is streaming on Netflix. I am loving it. The notion that these 40+ actors are playing 20 somethings never gets old to me. Lots of 90’s references (“I tried to leave a message but your machine was full”). Michael Ian Black is to die. Bradley Cooper couldn’t make it so Adam Scott fills in as Bradley Cooper’s character “who just got a nose job”.
- 2-3 lbs. eggplant (~2 whole eggplants), cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 to 2 banana peppers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
- 5 tbsp. olive oil
- Sea salt
- 12 ounces pasta, campanelle or farfalle
- 1-2 cups mushrooms of your favorite variety
- 4 lbs. heirloom tomatoes, try to remove the skins and dice or use the box-grater method (see Step 3)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- 3 tbsp. brine-packed capers, drained
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter (optional)
- Grated ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put eggplant cubes and peppers on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Toss with 4 tbsps. olive oil and season well with salt. Roast, turning everything, until eggplant and peppers are very soft and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Make sure you babysit these guys. Set a timer and flip every ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in well-salted boiling water until about 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain.
- Dice tomatoes and cut off the skins if you can. Otherwise, try NYT’s box grater method in Step 3 here.
- Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 tbsp. olive oil to the pan with the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Simmer until tomato pulp is reduced by half (about 30 minutes) then season to taste with salt.
- Add mushrooms to the sauce and let simmer for ~3 minutes.
- Add the pasta, capers and butter (optional) to the pan with the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, tossing until butter melts and pasta finishes cooking, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and toss in eggplant and cheese (optional).
- Serve pasta drizzled with a little more oil and the herbs.
Pop culture enthusiast. Lover of all things Philly. Amateur Chef. Planner of fun date nights.