Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Aubergine and Mozzarella

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This is honestly one of the tastiest pasta recipes I have ever made. The Mozzarella thrown in at the last minute makes these beautiful long stringy bits of cheese when you dig in. It’s gloriously messy and just so divine!

1 firm ripe Aubergine (egg plant, brinjal)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of good quality Italian plum tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 – 2 fresh or dried chillies chopped or crumbled (optional)
A bunch of fresh basil, leaves ripped and stalks sliced
4 tbsp double cream
1 packet of rigatoni or penne pasta
200g cows milk mozzarella
Fresh Parmesan cheese for grating

– remove both ends of the Aubergine and slice it into 1cm thick slices, the. Slice these across and finely dice into 1cm cubes. Place the cubes in a colander in the sink and sprinkle ground sea salt onto the Aubergine chunks and allow to ‘sweat’ for 30 minutes. Rinse and put onto kitchen paper to absorb the excess water.

– in a large saucepan, drizzle in 4 – 5 tbsp olive oil. When it’s hot, add the Aubergine chunks. As soon as they hit the pan stir around with a spoon so that they get coated gently in oil and not soaked on one side only. Cook for about 7-8 minutes on a medium heat. Then add the garlic and onion. When they have a little color add the tinned tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Stir around and season carefully with salt and pepper. At this point, if you wanted to give the dish a little heat you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dry chilli, but that’s up to you.

– add the basil stalks, and simmer the sauce nice and gently for around 15 minutes, then add the cream.

– while the sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the packet instructions until it is soft but still holding its shape, then drain it, saving a little of the cooking water. I like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle of olive oil and move it around so it becomes almost dressed with the water and oil.

– at this point add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta. By now the aubergines will have cooked into a creamy tomatoey pulp, which is just so delicious. Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper.

– tear up the mozzarella and the basil leaves and fold them in, let it sit for 30 seconds and serve immediately with grated Parmesan on top.

Recipe by Jamie Oliver

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