My adventure with this dish started when I read about an Eggplant Romesco pasta dish on another website. It sounded fun, and a little bit different, so I tried it out.
This is what I did to change it up a bit…
The thing that made me want to try this recipe the most was the eggplant. I’m a sucker for adding eggplant to things. This one was a little different – roasted eggplant, red bell pepper, tomatoes and almonds are puréed until smooth and served over pasta. Sort of a Romesco… but sort of not. It turned out pretty tasty, with a mix of flavours that was different from the usual tomato sauce. It was good… really good… but something was missing.
With the eggplant, tomatoes and nuts, it seemed that a more Mediterranean slant was in order. I didn’t do much to change it up – I just added some thyme, some really (really) salty cheese and some spicy harissa (North African chili paste). Just a couple of simple tweaks, and it was perfect!
Mediterranean Romesco Pasta
based on this recipe, from Serious Eats
- 2 dried pasilla or ancho chile peppers
- 1 globe eggplant (about 1 pound), unpeeled, cut in large dice
- 2 medium red bell peppers, cut in large dice
- 1/2 medium red onion, quartered
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/3 cup whole almonds (can mix in other nuts or seeds, like pine nuts or pepitas)
- 1 thick slice day-old bread
- 1 pound freshly cooked rigatoni
- 1 cup salty cheese (I used Tressé, Feta would also work well)
- chopped chives, to serve
- harissa paste, to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the almonds and the bread on the same baking sheet and brush the bread on both sides with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Toast in the oven, flipping the bread halfway through, about 8 minutes total. Break the bread into pieces.
- Raise the temperature to 400°F.
- Set the dried chiles in a bowl and add boiling water just to cover. Weight with a small ramekin to keep the chiles submerged. Set aside.
- Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion and garlic in 1 teaspoon salt, freshly grated black pepper and thyme. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, toss until evenly coated and spread out onto a baking dish. Place in the oven, to one side.
- In a second baking dish, spread out the canned tomatoes with the juices. Place next to the other baking dish in the oven. If they don’t both fit on one rack, place on a lower rack.
- Roast until the eggplant and peppers have browned, about 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. Remove from the oven.
- After about 5 minutes, add the contents of the both baking dishes into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Chop and add the soaked chilis, toasted nuts and bread. Purée until smooth.
- Serve over pasta. Top with a dollop of spicy harissa paste, a sprinkling of fresh chopped chives and some really salty cheese.