Pasta Quills with Vegetables and Mozzarella

4 cups penne (1 pound)
1 small eggplant
salt and pepper to taste
1 bulb fennel
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic crushed
dash of tabasco sauce
1 3/4 cups ripe tomatoes, blanched, skins removed and roughly chopped
4 ounces mozzarella drained and cut into thin slices
fresh parmesan cheese shavings for garnish
basil leaves for garnish

Cook the pasta in a saucepan of boiling salted water until al dent.

Chop the eggplant into 1 inch chunks, sprinkle with salt and drain for about 1 hour to remove any bitter juices. Rinse and pat dry. Chop the fennel into similarly sized pieces.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy based pan and fry the eggplant and the crushed garlic quite quickly until soft and golden. Season with Tabasco. (You man need to keep adding a little water to loosen the eggplant, which will stick to the bottom.) Remove the eggplant from the pan and sauté the fennel in the same way. (Softened fennel will lose much of its aniseed flavor but will retain a wonderfully subtle sweet taste.) Return the eggplant to the pan and add the quartered tomatoes, heating for only a minute so the tomato does completely disintegrate. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and adjust the seasoning. With the heat turned off, add the sliced mozzarella, which will melt gently in the heat of the pasta and make a thread when lifted with a fork.

Garnish with Parmesan shavings and basil and serve.

Serves 6.



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