This is a wonderful time of year for this lusty pasta dish, surely one Cristforo Colombo might have enjoyed today. I created a version of this dish for Bon Appetit last year but have made some adjustments since. Now I make it with mezzi rigatoni (a shorter version) and fresh buffalo mozzarella. Any fresh mozzarella will do, and provola (smoked mozzarella) is also pretty divine.
Happy Columbus Day. Enjoy the long weekend-- a great one for cooking. To drink? Try a high-end Barbera or re-discover Chianti.
1 unpeeled large eggplant (1-3/4 pounds), cut into 1/2 inch cubes 2 medium yellow peppers, cut into 1/2-inch squares 2 cups grape tomatoes 3 large garlic cloves 1/3 cup olive oil 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves 1 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 1/4 cup pine nuts 28-ounces whole tomatoes in juice 1 cup heavy cream 1 pound mezzi rigatoni 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet and add eggplant and peppers. Cut tomatoes in half and add to baking sheet. Using a garlic press, squeeze 1 garlic clove onto vegetables. Drizzle with oil and toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until vegetables are tender, stirring often, 35 to 40 minutes. Combine 2/3 cup basil, 1/2 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and 1 garlic clove in a processor. Blend just until crumbly and season with salt. Blend tomatoes with juice, cream, 1-1/3 cups basil, and 1 garlic clove in processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cook pasta in pot of boiling water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally; drain. Return to pot. Toss with vegetables, sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Transfer to a 13x2x9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella and pint nut topping. Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve. Serves 8