Sugo di Melanzana e Peperoni per Spaghetti Freddi

Eggplant and Peppers Dressing for Spaghetti Salad

If I Had invented pasta salads I would hide. As it is, I am uncomfortable in recalling that it was after a recipe for pasta salad appeared in my preceding book, nearly a decade ago, that the item became a fixture of delicatessens and take-home food shops everywhere.

It is not the dish itself that is at fault. It is the use that has been made of it. Salads of homemade egg pasta, and particularly of any kind of stuffed pasta, are most of all abominable: only dry, factory pasta has the firmness required for salads. And any such salad that has first steeped in its condiments at the shop and is likely to steep hours more before it is consumed at home, one that has known the inside of one or more refrigerators before reaching the table, defeats the essence of pasta, which is immediacy of preparation and freshness of taste.

Here, for the record, is a version faithful to the original principles. The sauce is a zesty, lemon-accented mixture of roasted eggplant and roasted peppers. It would make, by itself, a savory appetizer, spread over grilled bread. As a condiment for pasta it works best with thin spaghetti, but could also be good with fusilli.

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 small to medium sweet red bell pepper
  • 4 small scallions
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Method

  1. Turn on the oven to 425°.
  2. Wash the eggplant and place it on a baking sheet in the uppermost level of the oven. Turn the eggplant after 15 to 20 minutes, taking care not to puncture the skin. You do not want to lose any of the juices that help to make the eggplant tender and sweet as it cooks. Check the eggplant for tenderness after another 15 to 20 minutes. If it feels soft when pressed with a spoon, remove it from the oven.
  3. As soon as the eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut off the stem and peel the eggplant. Starting at the cut end, separate the eggplant flesh into lengthwise strips, exposing the seeds. Remove as many of the seeds as come away easily.
  4. Put the eggplant with its juices into a bowl and mash it with a fork to a creamy consistency.
  5. Turn on the broiler and put in the red pepper (you can use aluminum foil over the broiling pan to keep it from becoming sticky with juices from the pepper). Turn the pepper from time to time until its skin is charred on all sides. Do not overcook because you want the pepper’s flesh to be as firm as possible. When charred all around, put the pepper in a bag of heavy plastic or brown paper, close tightly, and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes, until the pepper is cool enough to handle.
  6. Pull off the skin, split the pepper, remove the core and seeds, and cut the flesh into ¼-inch squares. Add these to the mashed eggplant.
  7. Trim the root ends from the scallions, wash them, and chop them fine, including the green tips. Add them to the eggplant, together with the olive oil, salt, a liberal grinding of black pepper, lemon juice, and chopped parsley. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

Serving Suggestions

The eggplant and peppers mixture can be served on its own as a spread with drinks, or as an appetizer at table, or as a between-meals snack.

Putting the salad together

  1. Drop 1 pound thin spaghetti or fusilli into 3 to 4 quarts boiling salted water.
  2. Cool a serving platter under cold running water for a minute or more. Wipe it completely dry, then moisten the bottom with a filmy coat of extra virgin olive oil.
  3. When the pasta is done al dente—firm to the bite—drain immediately and transfer to the platter. Toss it repeatedly, thoroughly coating it with olive oil until it glistens. If necessary, add a few more drops of oil. Set aside to cool, but do not refrigerate.
  4. When completely cool, toss the pasta with the sauce. Do not, however, toss with sauce much earlier than 30 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestions

As the main course of a light summer lunch or as part of a buffet.

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