Ziti with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Serves

If you like eggplant, you'll be sure to enjoy this dish. (Or substitute zucchini, it will be delicious!)

You have a myriad of tasty possibilities for experimenting, as well: add olives, anchovies, roasted peppers, crumbled Italian sausage, or different herbs. If your tomatoes are lackluster, add other zesty items to compensate, or substitute a good-quality canned tomato, such as San Marzano.


Ingredients

1 large eggplants (unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch x 1-inch chunks)
  salt
6 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
1 cup olive oil
3 ripe tomatoes (peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice)
16 yellow cherry tomatoes (halved)
12 sun-dried tomatoes (cut into thin strips)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup fresh basil (cut into ribbons)
10 ounces ziti, penne, or other small tube-shaped pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheeses
  Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


Directions

Place the eggplant in a colander and lightly salt, tossing to coat. Let the eggplant drain in the sink for 30 minutes to decrease any potential bitterness. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels and set aside.

Combine the unpeeled garlic cloves with 1 cup water in a small pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and allow the garlic to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins, and mash the cloves into a paste.

Heat half of the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add half of the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is just tender and golden. Set the first batch aside and continue cooking the remaining eggplant in the remaining oil.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add salt and the ziti, and cook until the pasta is al dente.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken stock in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant and the tomatoes are hot. Stir in the basil and reserved eggplant, and cook until the mixture is warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and toss it with the eggplant-tomato mixture. Transfer the ziti to a warm platter and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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