Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pasta al Forno

The great thing about Meatless Mondays (or Wednesdays, as the case may be) is that there's no pressure to make a side dish, because you're already serving a main that's got vegetables.  This, of course, is in addition to the cost benefits of not using meat, the health benefits, the environmental benefits, etc.

I promise it looks better than this terrible picture.

Thus far, I've received at least 4 issues of Cook's Country magazine, but haven't made a whole lot of recipes from it.  Although I am sort of in love with the Cook's Illustrated folks, the magazine (and, I must admit, my stack of cookbooks) isn't where I turn for recipes most of the time.  But inspiration struck me and I flipped through it during my meal planning for the week, and many of this week's meals are from it.

Baby E and I thought this was delicious, and both went back for seconds.  I was concerned that not salting the eggplant would make it bitter, but cooking it in olive oil and salt seems to have done the trick, and much faster too.  I love that this is loaded with veggies, has very little salt (I only added salt to the eggplant and the pasta water), but is very hearty.  The flavors of tomato and fresh basil had me thinking summer, although the heartiness could easily be a comforting winter meal as well.

M said it was fine, that he was happy with the veggies and it "didn't make me puke" (seriously, this is his commentary), but that it wasn't really WOW worthy.  I'm not sure what would WOW him, since "Not bad" is something that's pretty good.

A took three bites.  Despite begging for snack at 5:15, he wouldn't just dig into the dinner.  I even had him help me make it, and he took three bites.  Sigh.

Pasta al Forno

2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
2c shredded Italian cheese blend
3T olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium eggplant, cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2-14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
1/2c finely chopped fresh basil
box rotini pasta

1.  Preheat oven to 475.  Bring pasta water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions.
2.  Add bread, 1c cheese, 1T oil, and 1 clove garlic to food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Set aside.
3.  Heat remaining oil in an oven safe nonstick skillet (I had to use a pot; my biggest oven safe skillet was too small for everything!) over medium high heat until shimmering.  Add eggplant and 1/2t salt.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned, making sure to stir once in awhile.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add remaining garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add tomatoes; simmer about 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened slightly.  Turn off the heat, and add cheese and basil.  Keep warm.
4.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/2c pasta water.  Add drained pasta to the eggplant mixture, adding pasta water as necessary.  Season with salt and pepper, and top with bread crumbs.  Bake in preheated oven about 10 minutes, or until bread crumbs are golden.

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