It’s summer in Raleigh, which means an abundance of ripe tomatoes and eggplants at the State Farmer’s Market! After church yesterday I swung by the market to pick up some of each for a slow-cooked eggplant and tomato sauce, flavored with fresh basil and garlic. While that was cooking down, I made a small batch of 8 raviolis with some leftover ricotta, parmesan, parsley and an egg yolk. It made a great lunch today and I still have a few cups of the yummy sauce to eat this week, with pasta and/or polenta. Very tasty – the eggplant just falls apart, it’s so tender after having been cooked for almost 2 hours in the sauce.
I improvised the ravioli filling based on what I had in the fridge. Following my basic guidelines for ricotta lasagna filling – I mixed ricotta cheese with an egg, parsley, salt and pepper, and Parmesan cheese. The pasta was a basic egg pasta that I rolled out into sheets in my pasta roller (more about that process in a later post), cut into squares and filled, sealing the edges with egg wash and crimping them with a fork. I threw the ravioli into the freezer while the sauce cooked, which I think helped to keep the ravioli from bursting open during cooking.
Tomato and Eggplant Sauce
2 1/2 lb. Roma tomatoes
1/4 c. olive oil
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb. eggplant, peeled and chopped into about 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 whole branches of basil – rinsed, but not chopped
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
The ‘fast’ way of preparing the tomatoes is to core them, remove the seeds, and blend the remaining tomato flesh in a food processor until mostly smooth. A more traditional, but more time-consuming way is to score the tomato flesh with an X on the end, boil them for about 10 minutes to loosen the tomato peel, dump them in a cold water bath, remove the peel, and then repeat the same process – or use a food mill to grind all the juice and pulp out of the tomato while removing the seeds. I chose the easy way this time.
Note: Actually an even simpler way (and a way to make this in the winter months) might be to start with tomato sauce instead of fresh tomatoes. I think about 6 cups of tomato sauce resulted from the 2 1/2 lbs. of tomatoes in this first step.
In a stockpot, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium to low heat, along with 1/4 tsp. salt. This will allow the onion to sweat and cook until transparent without browning. When the onion is transparent, add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Add the eggplant cubes along with another 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook uncovered and stir occasionally for another 15 minutes, adding a bit of water if necessary to keep eggplant from sticking. Then add tomato sauce, using about 1 c. water to rinse the bowl, and adding that too. Add red pepper flakes and basil and stir well. Cover and bring to a simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover the sauce and continue to simmer gently for another 45 minutes as the sauce cooks down and gets thicker. Stir occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove the basil leaves and add more salt to taste. When it gets to a consistency and taste you’re happy with, it’s done!
This recipe made about 5 cups of finished sauce. Feel free to make a bigger batch, and even freeze some of it for later use.
Adapted from: Lidia’s Family Table, by Lidia Bastianich