This spaghetti with eggplant and ricotta sauce was just what I needed during a stressful week. The creamy ricotta and sweet and salty eggplant marry perfectly in this Sicilian classic.
I have quite a few cookbooks. A few of my favorites are The Skinnytaste Cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, The Professional Chef, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. With that being said, I rarely touch them. They are my favorites because I have used them in the past, before life got hectic. Most of the time, now, I am too busy during the week to look through a cookbook, go grocery shopping, and follow a recipe. This is all a result of poor planning, but you get the idea. I could cook one during the weekend, which is usually what I do, but lately I have been using my weekends as time to try good restaurants around Tampa. What a pickle.
So, I decided to challenge myself. And because I am feeling inspired and feeling accomplished after completing the first step of my challenge, I want to challenge you, too:
One day of each week, make a recipe you have never made before. Either pull out an old cookbook, or ask your grandmother for an old recipe, or find a new food blog, or buy a magazine at the check-out line like Bon Appetit or Food&Wine. Just step outside of your routine. Once a week.
This particular night, I chose to bring out Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This book is old school. It was published in 1992, has no pictures (besides ink illustrations), and is true to its’ title: classic. Being that my fathers’ family is from Sicily, I have been meaning to make an eggplant dish, and I love pasta (and have an intense workout planned in the morning), I decided on the Spaghetti with Eggplant and Ricotta Sauce, Sicilian Style.
I had so much eggplant, or melenzana, in Sicily. One of the most prominent dishes I saw was caponata. I miss it so much, I’ll have to make it soon.
This recipe is not for a busy weeknight, I have to say that. You have to peel the eggplant, chop the eggplant, steep the eggplant in salt, rinse it, dry it, let it dry, fry it, need I go on? I felt like nonna in the kitchen cooking for her family on a Sunday night.
However, what makes all of the effort that goes into cooking a meal worth it is two things:
1) The taste that envelopes your mouth as the food hits your tongue and spreads its’ flavor like a tsunami bursting through an unsuspecting village.
2) The look on your loved ones faces as they simultaneously experience said flavor tsunami.
Now, for the recipe.
I could not find it online, so I took a photo of the recipe in the book and will display it below. A few tips to remember:
1) Don’t over salt the eggplant when steeping. You’ll taste it later.
2) Make sure to follow the direction regarding leaving room for the eggplant to sit comfortably while frying. Don’t pile it all on into one pan. Do it in batches.
3) Don’t be shy with the cheese. This recipe calls for 3 tbs, but that’s like eating just one serving size of peanut butter: unrealistic and blasphemous.
Also, a few things I have learned from this book: Don’t salt the pasta water until it’s boiling, and do NOT add oil to it. Don’t add the pasta until the water is fully boiling. And while I knew this prior to reading this book, it is a common mistake people make: do NOT add the basil until you are ready to serve.
As far as what pasta to use – I love Alma’s brand, and I used spaghetti just because of preference.
Join the conversation:
What’s your favorite pasta dish?
How often do you reference a cookbook?
Tell me: what are your favorite cookbooks?!
If you liked this recipe, don’t forget to pin it for later!