Who can resist beautiful veggies? Use them to make roasted caponata pasta, a quick and easy dinner.
Gleaming and shiny vegetables
The door that I use to enter my neighborhood grocery store opens to the produce department. It is a different experience every time I walk through the door. This is largely due to the day and time. Wednesday the new weekly sales start and the bins tend to be overflowing with produce. Sunday, after the rush to stock up before the work and school week starts, everything is picked through and only the rejects are left behind. Even Monday mornings can be trying since the store is playing catch up after the weekend rush.
But recently I walked through the door and it was a picture-perfect scene. Vivid colors. Crisp textures. Gleaming and shiny, the vegetables were lined up like soldiers in perfect rows. Total inspiration for a cook!
Catching my eye, graffiti eggplants were my first choice. With striated purple and white skin, who could resist? But what to make? Then I spied the little red beauties, cherry tomatoes still on their stems. Roasted caponata pasta immediately came to mind.
Quick and easy
Caponata is quick and easy to make. Roasting some of the vegetables will add a depth of flavor that can hold up to what I think is essential - anchovy paste and Calabrian chiles. Pungent, sharp, and spicy, these two ingredients give immediate personality to the sauce.
Super easy, this pasta comes together in about 30 minutes. Have a pot of water on the burner getting ready to boil as meal prep progresses. Toss diced eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and smashed garlic cloves with olive oil, salt and pepper. Because the oven temperature is set at 425 degrees, the vegetables will roast in about 20 minutes. This will give you enough time to slice and brown onions in a saute pan and to add the anchovy paste. As soon as you remove the vegetables from the oven, add the pasta to the boiling water.
Add the roasted vegetables to the onion/anchovy mix along with the white wine. Let everything marry with the tomatoes creating a silky sauce that will coat all the noodles.
Boil the pasta until it is slightly less than al dente as it will continue to cook in the caponata sauce. Make sure to save about 1 cup of the pasta water. If you need a little more sauce for your noodles, add the pasta water.
Toss in the last ingredients to the saute pan - the escarole, capers, Calabrian chiles, and the pine nuts. This sauce is a great combination of umami, savory with a punch of heat, the brine of the capers, and the crunch of the pine nuts. All it needs is a sprinkle of cheese. While I like ricotta Salata, pecorino or parmesan would work as well.
A favorite full of personality
Whenever I am recipe testing, we tend to have a full refrigerator of different iterations as I tweak. This is one recipe I have not changed since the beginning. I have eaten this roasted caponata pasta many nights in a row and could continue to do so. It's a new favorite! I hope it will be one of yours!
Roasted Caponata Pasta
- sheet pan
- large skillet
- large pot to boil pasta
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes 4 cups
- 7 ounces eggplant 4 cups diced eggplant
- 5 cloves garlic small cloves, smashed
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion about 9 ounces, 2 ½ cups sliced
- 1 ½ teaspoons anchovy paste
- 2 cups escarole sliced into ribbons
- ½ cup white wine
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 1 tablespoon chopped Calabrian peppers
- 1 ½ tablespoons basil julienned (chiffonade)
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- ⅓ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- 1 pound pasta noodles
- Preheat oven to 425°. Start a large pot of water to come to a boil.
- Put diced eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and smashed garlic cloves on a sheet pan. Toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in oven to roast for 18-20 minutes.
- While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, put a large skillet on a burner, with medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and let it get hot. Add the sliced onions to the oil, stirring occasionally. The onions should be getting slightly browned, not caramelized. If the onions are getting too browned or burned, lower the heat. Once the onions are browned add the anchovy paste and stir into the onions. Turn the heat low just to keep the pan and onions warm.
- Put the pine nuts in the oven on a sheet tray to lightly roasted - only 4-5 minutes.
- When the water has come to a boil, add the pasta to the water. Boil until it is slightly undercooked. It should still be slightly crunchy in the middle. When it is time to remove the noodles, take a cup of pasta water out of the pan before draining. Reserve for later.
- Check the vegetables in the oven after 18 minutes. The tomatoes should be lightly charred and starting to burst. The garlic should be somewhat soft and the eggplant may also be roasted. If the vegetables do not look roasted enough, return to the oven for a couple of minutes.
- Once the vegetables are roasted, add to the pan with the onions and the anchovy paste. Stir everything together while also smashing the garlic cloves. Add the ½ cup of white wine to the pan and increase heat to medium.
- At this point add the capers, escarole, and basil. Combine everything so that the escarole begins to wilt.
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce. If it looks like the pasta needs more sauce, add the pasta water while combining everything together.
- Lastly, add the chopped Calabrian peppers and the pine nuts, again combining everything. The pasta should be al dente at this point and ready to serve. Sprinkle cheese over the pasta before serving.