What doesn’t kill me…

Last week I conquered something I truly feared.

very intimidating.

I always hated eggplant…which I can probably attribute to the days when I’d get myself a heaping stack of “Chicken Parmesan” at Grandma’s on Sundays and I’d bite into a pile of mushy, sweet eggplant instead.  TRAGIC.

The conclusion here?  I still hate eggplant, but this dish disguises it well…husband enjoyed it, and sometimes that’s enough.  I ate it anyway because it was edible food. For real though- it’s pretty good even for the eggplant haters out there.  This appropriately reflects the fact that I am now on a tight budget due to some financial distress (yes, the outcome from the last post was the bad one), alas the theme for the next few weeks will probably be vegetarian. It is time to be more creative in the kitchen- let’s pretend that it’s fun to be on a budget!

nothing better than a melty baked cheesy dish when you need serious comfort

The sauce only contains these two ingredients

Pulse in food processor

Steam the eggplant…

Combine everything to cook the pasta in…

Just one more step after pasta & mushrooms are cooked…

Cheesy skillet meal at its finest

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Serves 6, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, Pasta Revolution

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomaotes
  • 3 cups roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped (24 oz jar)
  • 1 1/2 lbs eggplant, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh oregano, or 1/4 tsp dried
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 oz whole wheat pasta (I prefer alma’s brand, short shaped pasta works best for this)
  • 8oz baby bella mushrooms
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
  • 2-3 Tbs chopped fresh basil

Method:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 375 degrees.  Toss the panko with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season (if your breadcrumbs aren’t pre-seasoned).  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until golden-brown, 5 to 10 minutes.  Let cool slightly and then toss with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan.
  2. Meanwhile, pulse the tomatoes and red peppers in the food processor until coarsely ground and no large pieces remain, about 10 pulses.
  3. Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels.  Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of salt over eggplant on the plate.  Microwave uncovered, about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.  The eggplant should be dry and starting to shrivel.  Let the eggplant cool slightly, then drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the pieces.  Set aside.
  4. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch oven safe skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the eggplant and cook until well browned and tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Return to the bowl.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the remaining tablespoon of oil.  Saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute.  Stir in the tomato mixture and 1 teaspoon of salt, and increase the heat to medium-high.  Stir in 3 1/2 cups of water, the pasta, and the mushrooms.  Cover and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
  6. Add the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan and eggplant, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir to combine, then top with the slices of mozzarella.  Sprinkle the panko mixture over the cheese and transfer the skillet to the oven.  Bake until the topping is well-browned and cheese is melted, 5 to 10 minutes.  Sprinkle the basil over the top and serve.
 Damage*: 535 calories/60g carbs/23g fat/24g protein/9g fiber
*You can reduce the fat content by using less oil (I didn’t find a full quarter of a cup necessary) and reduce the amount of mozzarella for the topping (I used 4oz this time and while I would’ve preferred more, it was still delicious)
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