Today I decided to make one of the dishes I had in Italy last year. It was penne with eggplant, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. It was delicious (as was most of the food we had!) and I’ve been thinking about it lately as a nice, summery meal. Today I was at the Farmer’s Market and the eggplants looked nice, so I thought it was time to try.
Here’s a photo of the original dish from Capri, ItalyI’m not including the recipe here yet because I haven’t perfected it, but I will give you the details about my attempt. The first thing I did (and did incorrectly) was to cube the eggplant. I cut mine into too small cubes AND I didn’t use the skin. I couldn’t remember if the dish had the eggplant skin so I removed it from my pieces and later when I consulted the photo, the skin was used. The biggest problem with my version was that I waaaaaay overcooked the eggplant. Perhaps not having the skin affected the cooking time or I just plain old overcooked it. Either way, it wasn’t great.
I also didn’t get the lovely, deep color that is shown in the above photo. I think this is an olive oil problem. I imagine the quality of the Italian olive oil is much better than the extra virgin olive oil I’m using. I’m going to look for a high end, really amazing quality olive oil for finishing dishes. Any suggestions on brands?
The last thing that affected the final taste was the use of grape tomatoes instead of Roma tomatoes. I just don’t like the taste of large chunks of cooked tomato and I LOVE grape tomatoes. In the end, the grape tomatoes were too sweet and completely altered the taste of the dish. I also added sliced mushrooms because I thought they would fit right into this dish, and they did. Here’s attempt #1.
See the mushy eggplant blobs (can’t even call them cubes) in this photo?
This sounds all doom and gloom, but the dish was really tasty, just not a perfect re-creation of the one I was attempting. For try #2 I will adjust the size of the eggplant chunks (and cook it LATER in the veggie sauteing process), use Roma tomatoes and find a better quality olive oil. I also used a smooth penne instead of penne rigate with the ridges.