Bucatini with Roasted Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Sauce
This quick and easy fresh tomato sauce, mixed with silky roasted eggplant and herbs, is a perfect late-summer dinner for when the evenings start to cool down. Red pepper flakes are an optional addition for a bit of heat and can be reduced or omitted to make a mild sauce.
1/2cupplus 2 tablespoons olive oil,plus additional for serving
1/2teaspooncrushed red pepper flakes(optional)
1/2cupfresh basil leaves,torn
1tablespoonfresh oregano leaves,roughly chopped
1poundbucatini(or your favorite pasta)
ricotta salata,for serving
kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Roast the Eggplant
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss eggplant cubes and 1 tablespoon kosher salt in a colander set inside of a bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes. Discard any liquid in the bowl, rinse eggplant cubes, and dry well.
On a large baking sheet (line with foil for easy cleanup), toss together eggplant, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a few grinds of black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. Flip eggplant cubes, and continue roasting for 10-15 minutes more, until eggplant is tender and browned.
Make the Cherry Tomato Sauce
While eggplant is cooking, heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add cherry tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook until tomato skins begin to blister, pressing down on the tomatoes with the black of a wooden spoon to help them burst and release their juices. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, if using.
Lower heat and simmer until tomatoes are soft and the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes.**
Stir in roasted eggplant, basil, and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook bucatini to "al-dente" in a pot of salted, boiling water. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta in a colander. Add pasta to the sauce skillet and toss to combine over medium heat. Add reserved pasta cooking water, as needed, to bring the sauce to a consistency that coats the pasta.
Serve in warm bowls, with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and grated ricotta salata on the top.
*Depending on the varieties of eggplants you're using, you might want to peel them before roasting. The skins on baby eggplants, such as Fairy Tale, usually become very tender with roasting, but tougher-skinned varieties can be unappealing in the sauce.**I like to serve the sauce chunky with some of the tomatoes still intact. If you prefer that your finished sauce not have the tomato skins and seeds in it, you can puree it at this point, or pass it through a food mill before returning it to the pan and proceeding with the recipe. Pureed sauce might need extra pasta water to coat, so reserve a bit more than a cup when draining your bucatini.