I realize I’ve been doing a lot of pasta dishes lately, but pasta is such a darn good vehicle for the flavors of summer produce, I can’t help myself. Last night’s pasta dinner was inspired by caponata, the Sicilian eggplant dish. I combined a mixture of eggplant, tomatoes, capers and olives with the heat of red chile flakes and the tang of sherry vinegar to create a bright and tasty sauce. I tossed the sauce with spaghettini, but this would work with chunky pastas as well.
Spaghettini alla Caponata
1 lb. spaghettini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and diced
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1-2 anchovy filets
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (or more to taste)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup pitted and chopped olives
6 large fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Cook the onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened. Season with salt and add garlic, cooking until fragrant. Add the anchovies and cook until they dissolve. Stir in tomato paste, chile flakes and vinegar. Allow to cook for a minute or two, then add the eggplant and cherry tomatoes, stirring well. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the canned tomatoes, capers and olives. Reduce heat and continue cooking, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, tasting and adjusting the salt if necessary.
Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions, until just short of al dente.
Stir the basil into the sauce, and finish cooking the pasta in the sauce, adding a splash or two of pasta water to thin it out if necessary.