I have been making this pasta sauce for years. It simply bursts with flavor from the eggplant, basil, bell peppers, fennel, and crushed red pepper. The eggplant provides the structure for the body of the sauce, while at the same time adding its characteristic velvety smoothness to the texture. The sauce is creamy, velvety, sweet, sharp, and sour, all at once.
Since it is a relatively chunky sauce, I like to serve it with either Farfalle or Campanelle pasta, although you could certainly serve it on top of spaghetti noodles, or even as a topping for crostini if you wanted to.
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 2 bell peppers (preferably 1 red, 1 yellow), diced large
- 1 large onion, minced
- 1 small eggplant, unpeeled, diced into ½ to ¾ inch cubes.
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup fresh basil, minced, or 1½ tbsp dried
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1½ tsp crushed red pepper
- ½ tsp fennel
- ½ tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 cups chicken broth or stock
- ½ cup tomato paste
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1lb Farfalle or other pasta, freshly cooked.
- Parmesan cheese to taste, finely grated or microplaned
- Heat oil in a large heavy pan over medium-high heat.
- Add bell peppers, onion, eggplant, garlic, and a sprinkling of salt, and sautée until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
- Add basil (if using dried basil), thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper, fennel, and cayenne, and sautée until eggplant softens, about 10 minutes.
- Mix in broth, tomato paste, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Stir well and taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning. If the sauce tastes flat, try adding either more salt, vinegar, or sugar. (Instead of adding directly to the sauce, try adding just a drop or a grain to a teaspoon and taste that to see if that’s what the sauce needed.)
- Simmer sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting seasoning as needed.
- Remove from heat, add fresh basil (if using), and stir.
- Serve atop some freshly cooked farfalle pasta and garnish with parmesan cheese.
Adapted from: Bon Appétit’s Pasta with Eggplant and Basil Sauce.