I have been wanting to tell you about this dish for some time now and I thought I’d better get it to you before we get deep into grilling season. You know my husband is not fond of my one meatless meal per week, (although last week I snuck in two and he didn’t notice!) One night I threw together this dish and it was so satisfying, rich, delicious and different too! With the oil cured black olives and fresh fennel, each adding their own distinctive flavor, the sweet fresh tomatoes added at the end, along with the creaminess of the mozzarella, this is a recipe you will want to repeat. Give this eggplant, mozzarella and oil-cured black olive spaghetti dish a try and your meat lover will not complain. Mine asked me to make it again!
With this recipe, I also discovered some new things. I don’t know about you, but every time I cook eggplant, I feel like I run the risk of using way too much olive oil as the eggplant will absorb and absorb forever, if you know what I mean. So here, I used a reasonable amount for a whole pasta dish, 1/3 cup, but sautéed it on low heat covered, with the fennel, which also gave off some moisture. This made everything juicy and tender, needing no additional oil. I added the tomatoes at the very end, not to cook them into a sauce but to have them add their fresh burst of color and flavor. The 1/2 cup of pasta water is essential to make the sauce adhere to the noodle better. Did you know that that is true for all pastas?
The three small zebra striped eggplants seem sweeter to me. If you can’t find the zebra striped, use the small Italian solid purple eggplants. And do be sure to buy the best, fresh salted mozzarella you can find. Happy healthy eating!!
EGGPLANT, MOZZARELLA AND OIL-CURED BLACK OLIVE SPAGHETTI – serves 4 as a main course
3 small zebra striped eggplants, washed, trimmed and sliced lengthwise in half and then in 1/2 slices
1/2 of a large fennel bulb, cut into 1/4” thick slices, then in 1/2” pieces
1/3 cup olive oil
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
Heaping 1/2 cup of oil cured, pitted, black olives (the wrinkled ones)
7 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut in 1/4” slices, then 1/4” strips, then cut each strip in half again
Course sea salt for pasta water
1/2 lb. spaghetti
1/2 cup pasta water
Fill a large pot with cold water and bring to a boil. Salt with the coarse sea salt and add the pasta. Cook till al dente. Remove and reserve at least 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large skillet, add the eggplant and fennel and cook on low heat, covered while stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the minced garlic, cover and cook another 15 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and olives. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered.
Stir in your cooked pasta, pasta water and the cheese to combine and toss thoroughly to finish cooking your pasta.
Check seasonings – it may need some pepper but not much else. At least I didn’t need anything else, except to serve with LOVE!