Eggplant and bacon pasta with tomato sauce

4 Serves

800g eggplant , cut into 2.5cm/1″ cubes (2 medium/large ones)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
150 – 180 g bacon , diced

Pasta Sauce:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves , finely minced
1/2 small onion , very finely chopped (or 2 eschallots)
1/4 cup dry white wine , anything not too sweet or woody
700g tomato passata (aka tomato puree)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp dried Italian herbs or oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes , optional (for a hint of heat)
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
300g spaghetti or other pasta, long or short (macaroni, rigatoni, penne, ziti, fettucini, bucatini)

1/2 cup basil leaves , roughly chopped
Parmesan cheese , grated (or ricotta salata if you have it – more traditional)


Roasted eggplant:
Preheat oven to 240°C (220°C fan). Line a tray with baking / parchment paper.
Toss eggplant with oil, salt and pepper. Spread on the tray and roast for 20 minutes.
Flip, then roast for a further 5 minutes. Cool on tray (this helps the eggplant hold its shape when tossing).

Cooking pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Start cooking the pasta a couple of minutes after you start making the sauce (next section), until al dente or to your liking.

Heat oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook for 1 minute, then add garlic and onion and cook for 3 minutes or until onion is translucent and bacon is golden. Drain excess fat if desired.
Increase heat to medium-high and add wine, if using. Let it simmer, scraping the base of the pan to deglaze, until the wine mostly evaporates.
Add tomato passata. Now pour the water into the passata bottle, screw on the lid, shake, and pour that in too (waste nothing!)
Add dried herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer 5 minutes.
Stir in eggplant, then add cooked and drained pasta. GENTLY toss until pasta is coated in the sauce (so the eggplant doesn’t turn into complete mush!).
Serve immediately, garnished with a good pinch of fresh basil and parmesan.

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