Recipe: Rainy Day Rigatoni

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My favorite thing about reading food memoirs are the recipes that are hidden in the pages. I recently read Alyssa Shelasky’s book “Apron Anxiety” and had to try her recipe for Rainy Day Rigatoni. While I enjoyed the dish, it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be. It was better the next day and I think I will tweak it a bit next time by peeling the eggplant, adding garlic and more red wine to thin the sauce out some more. I could have done without the ricotta topping as well. The texture wasn’t doing it for me.

Ricotta topping:

2 c. sheep’s milk ricotta

1 c. whole milk

1 tsp. fine sea salt

1 tsp. coarse sea salt

1 tsp. course black pepper

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 T. dried oregeno

2-3 T.  extra virgin olive oil

Rigatoni:

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped

Pinch hot pepper flakes

1 large eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tsp. salt, plus more for the pasta water

One 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1/4 c. red wine

1 T. sugar

1 pound rigatoni

1 c. fresh basil leaves, torn

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish

To make the ricotta topping: Beat the ricotta and milk together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until the mixture is light and fluffy. And the fine sea salt and mix well.

Place the mixture in a serving bowl. Generously sprinkle the coarse salt, pepper, thyme and oregano over the top. Drizzle with oil and refrigerate.

To make the rigatoni: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and saute until the onion is almost translucent. Add the eggplant and one teaspoon of salt and cook for 20 minutes, allowing the eggplant to get a little brown, moving it around with a spoon. Then add the tomatoes, wine, sugar and the remaining one teaspoon of salt. Stir often. Cook for 50 to 60 minute until the eggplant is very soft.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, throw in a handful of salt and cook the rigatoni according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta, then return it to its pot. Add the sauce from the skillet to the pot, mixing everything together. Add a dash of oil, and most of the torn basil leaves. Ladle into bowls and top with the remaining basil leaves and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Top it off with a scoop of the ricotta topping. Serve hot.

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