Summer. In the heat of the afternoon, a stillness has descended on the backyard. The low drone of bumble bees buzzing in the garden, the neighbor's cat slinking across the grass. My ambition extends no further than lazing on the porch with a good book.
Do you keep a book list? I love lists. To-do lists, book lists, the perfect wardrobe list . . . the very act makes me feel organized. And so helpful, too, as more than once I've started a book only to realize I've already read it. While perusing the stacks at the library, I discovered British author Anthony Capella. He is, by his own admission, an Italophile and lover of all things culinary. His novels are positively seductive.
A few days ago I began reading "The Wedding Officer", set in 1944 Italy. Which, of course, had me immediately craving pasta. With the mint that grows wild in the corner of the garden, I made a simple sauce of eggplant and tomato.
This is a fragrant dish that takes a mere thirty minutes to prepare. I hope you enjoy it. And if you have favorite book titles that you'd like to share, I'd love to add them to my list.
Tagliolini with Eggplant and Mint
1/2 pound tagliolini or fettuccine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, very finely chopped
1 large Japanese eggplant (about 6 oz) cut into 1/4-inch cubes (2 cups)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole canned tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese, plus more for serving
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the tagliolini until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant in an even layer and cook for several minutes undisturbed, until browned on the bottom. Cook, stirring a few times, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and mint, season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
Drain the tagliolini, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauté pan along with the butter and 1/4 cup cheese and toss well. If needed, add enough cooking water to moisten the pasta, then adjust seasonings. Transfer pasta to bowls and serve with extra Romano cheese.
Yield: 2-3 servings.