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Cooking for my neighbor

Posted by Sheryl Julian  May 10, 2010 04:16 PM

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My sweet neighbor, Patty, had a baby three weeks ago -- she's a little button! -- and I've been taking food over on the weekends. This week, I made a dish of pasta shells in a 10-minute tomato sauce with broiled eggplant, ricotta, and basil leaves.

When I was dividing the pasta between two baking dishes (so Patty can freeze one for another time), my husband appeared in the kitchen. "What about us?" he asked, looking forlorn.

I layered a little dish to accompany our supper. We fought over it.


Pasta with eggplant, ricotta, and basil

Serves 6

Oil (for sprinkling and the dish)

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 pound pasta shells

1 pound fresh ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 can (28 ounces) imported plum tomatoes, with their liquid

2 cups fresh basil leaves

Pinch crushed red pepper

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1. Turn on the broiler. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. Spread the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well. Broil about 8 inches from the element, turning several times, for 8 minutes or until the eggplant starts to char. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the eggplant is tender. Leave the oven on. 

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often, until it returns to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 6 minutes or until the pasta is not quite tender (it will cook more later, so it should not be fully cooked now). Before draining, dip a heatproof measuring cup into the cooking water and remove 1 cup pasta water.

4. Drain the pasta into a colander and without shaking the colander, tip it into a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water and the ricotta. Stir gently. Add 1/2 cup more pasta water or enough to make a loose pasta mixture.

5. In the pasta cooking pot, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the tomatoes and cook, crushing them with the edge of a long metal spoon, for 4 minutes. Add salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Add the eggplant and simmer for 6 minutes.

6. Ladle half the sauce into the baking dish. Tear the basil with your fingers. Sprinkle half the basil on the tomato sauce. Add the pasta, half the mozzarella, the remaining basil, the remaining sauce, and the remaining mozzarella.

7. Bake the pasta for 30 to 40 minutes or until it is bubbling at the edges and the top is golden brown. Let the dish settle for 5 minutes before serving. Sheryl Julian 

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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