Pasta is the ultimate convenience food, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s quick-cooking, infinitely adaptable, and always satisfying.  This recipe might serve as a template, a starting point, so to speak.  You begin with a little flavorful protein, add some fresh seasonal vegetables, and toss those with  sturdy pasta.  Garnish the dish with lots of fresh herbs and rich cheese, and dinner is served.  I used Italian sausage, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, penne, basil, and burrata in my impromptu pasta supper, but you could just as easily substitute ground lamb and garnish with mint and feta for an entirely different taste and mood.  With a little imagination you can create a healthy and fast dinner with ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator.  Here’s how to start:

Italian Sausage and Roasted Eggplant Pasta
(serves 4)
1 small eggplant (7 to 8 ounces), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed or in bulk form
1/4 cup dry white wine
16 ounces cherry tomatoes, stemmed and rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
12 ounces sturdy, short tubes of pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
1 cup torn burrata cheese (or fresh ricotta)
1 generous cup of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn if very large
Preheat the oven to 425F.  Place the eggplant slices, in a single layer, on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 10 minutes, or until golden.  Set aside.  Heat another tablespoon of oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Crumble in the Italian sausage and cook, breaking up any large pieces with a spoon, until golden and cooked through.  Add the chopped garlic and the white wine to the pan.  Let the wine bubble down to a glaze, then add the tomatoes and stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the tomatoes soften and the liquid thickens slightly.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in lots of boiling salted water until al dente (tender but still firm).  Drain the pasta and add to the sauce with the roasted eggplant.  Toss together over low heat to combine and coat the pasta with sauce.  Plate the pasta in a large bowl or platter, and top with cheese and basil.  Grind a little fresh black pepper over the cheese, if you like.
(adapted from Donna Hay magazine, issue 68)

  

 

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