Ziti, Eggplant, and Fontina Gratin Pasta
A quick stint under the broiler melts the fontina and browns the top.
1 large eggplant (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 pound ziti or penne
- 1/2 pound fontina, grated (about 2 cups)
- In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the eggplant and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and cook 3 minutes longer.
- Heat the broiler. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.
- Toss the pasta with the eggplant, the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the cheese and toss again. Transfer the pasta to a shallow baking dish or gratin dish. Broil until the cheese melts and starts to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Eggplant Controversies Cooks in Italy, as everywhere, disagree about whether or not eggplant should be peeled. It seems to be a matter of personal preference, but keep in mind that an eggplant that is overgrown or has been stored for a long time will have a tough skin that will not soften during cooking. It's often a good idea to peel it.
Whether or not to salt and drain eggplant before cooking remains a matter of dispute, too. Some say you should salt slices heavily and drain them on paper towels for an hour to rid the eggplant of any bitterness; others feel it"s an unnecessary step. What is indisputably true is that eggplant that has been salted and drained will absorb less oil during frying than eggplant that has not.
Though Dolcetto translates as little sweet one, that refers to the grape; the wine is delightfully dry. It will make an ideal partner for this tasty dish.