Greek Vegetarian Penne with Charred Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Extra Virgin Greek Olive Oil
In the Greek diet, pasta figures in both vegetarian recipes and with animal protein, such as the classic baked Greek pasta recipe, pastitsio. My personal favorites are the Greek pasta recipes that bring to mind the best of the Mediterranean diet, with Mediterranean ingredients that focus on plants. This Greek recipe for penne calls for charring long thin eggplants – Japanese eggplant is a good variety for that. It also calls for tossing the pasta with extra virgin Greek olive oil and herbs. If you wanted to make this a tad richer, you could always add a little crumbled Greek feta.
Light the broiler. Toss the eggplant rounds in a bowl with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, or enough to lubricate them well, and a little salt. Place the garlic cloves on a baking sheet and add the eggplant rounds over them, covering the garlic with the slices, so it doesn’t burn under the heat. Place on a baking sheet about 8 inches from the heat source and broil until tender and the skins lightly charred, about 20 minutes. Turn them a few times during the process.
Toss the tomato halves with 2 tablespoons olive oil and some salt, and five minutes before removing the eggplant from the broiler, stir in the tomato halves. It’s nice to get a little char on them as well. Remove and set aside.
While the eggplant and tomatoes are under the broiler, make the penne according to package directions in ample salted water.
Drain and toss the pasta with the eggplant-tomato-garlic mixture and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Gently stir in the basil and season with a little freshly ground black pepper. Serve.