Eggplant. It’s what’s for dinner. Again. Linguine with Japanese Eggplant and Basil

by Terry B on August 30, 2017

Some eggplant roasted ahead of time is the base of this weeknight quick vegetarian pasta. Basil, garlic and Parmesan are the other key ingredients. Recipe below.

Linguine with Japanese Eggplant and Basil

Our tiny, abundant garden continues to be, well, abundant. So one recent evening, I came home to find Marion roasting eggplants, beets and potatoes. Okay, the potatoes were from the fridge, not our garden, but they weren’t getting any fresher. The beets and potatoes were sides for dinner that night. A few nights later, I turned the eggplant, some basil from the garden and a few always-on-hand ingredients into this quick dinner.

The roasted eggplant cubes are the heart of this dish (yes, we’ve been cooking a lot of eggplant here lately); Marion has a couple of tips for making and using them. When preparing, keep in mind that these shrink down something fierce. Two cups of cubed eggplant will yield about 1 cup of roasted eggplant.

When you’re making these up, make extra and store it in the fridge. Serve them as snacks when you have company. Top a pizza or add to a sandwich. Toss in a soup as a finish. These little cubes  are sweet and mild and rich and so appealing. You’re going to think of tons of ways to use them.

This dish was a combo effort by the two of us. The recipe was written that way too.

Linguine with Japanese Eggplant and Basil
Serves 3

3 or 4 Japanese eggplant
olive oil
salt

12 to 15 large basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces uncooked linguine

Equipment:  baking sheets, hotel pans or sheet cake pans

Roast the eggplant. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Peel the eggplant—I removed most of the skin, but that’s not essential. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and season with salt, if you didn’t pre-salt it (see Kitchen Notes). Lavishly coat the baking pan (I used a hotel pan and a 9 x 13 sheet cake pan) with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.

Add the cubes to the baking sheets—as when you are cooking mushrooms, don’t let the eggplant pieces touch each other. You want plenty of air circulation so they will get nice and toasty and not just soggy and lumpy. Slide into the hot oven.

After about 8 minutes, take out the sheets and turn the cubes to another side. Return to the oven. Repeat once or twice, until the eggplant are lightly browned on a least a couple of sides and nice and soft.

At this point, if you are not using the cubes immediately, then put them in a bowl to cool.  To store, put in a jar or container, add more olive oil, cover tightly and refrigerate (for up to five days).

Make the pasta dish. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the eggplant cubes and gently toss to combine. Warm the eggplant through, stirring gently occasionally.

Drain the pasta, reserving some cooking water. Add the pasta and half each of the basil and the Parmesan. Season with salt and black pepper, and toss to combine, adding a little pasta cooking water if it seems too dry. Divide the pasta among three serving bowls and top with the eggplant mixture, which will have inevitably sunk to the bottom of the pan as you valiantly tried to toss everything together. Top with the remaining basil and Parmesan, along with another grind of pepper (for both the appearance and the flavor). Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Salt? Don’t salt? Many eggplant recipes recommend a first step of salting the individual cubes, then rinsing and drying them. You may want to do this if you fear your eggplant may be very bitter, but most eggplants are not these days, so you can probably skip this step. Here’s what Epicurious has to say on the subject.

Other adornments? This weeknight quick dish was delicious as served. You might also like to top it with a fried or poached egg. You can also serve it alongside some quickly sautéed white-fleshed fish if you want some animal protein.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John/Kitchen Riffs August 30, 2017 at 8:29 am

Used to salt eggplant religiously until I figured out one day it wasn’t really getting me anything. Haven’t had a bitter eggplant in years. Now watch the next one be bitter! :-) Anyway, love a veggie-based pasta like this. Very nice — thanks.

Anita September 1, 2017 at 3:57 pm

There are two standard recipe instructions I don’t follow (and I tend to follow recipe instructions religiously). I’ve never salted an eggplant, and I’ve never picked over lentils to look for rocks. No bitter eggplants, no chipped teeth. Well, not from a rock in my lentils.

Anita September 1, 2017 at 3:58 pm

p.s. You said roasted eggplant would store ok in the fridge. Do you think it would store ok in the freezer?

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