11 August 2007

Pasta Salad with Eggplant and Ricotta Salata

Three reasons why I should not be posting a recipe for pasta salad:
1. The administrator and contributress extraordinaire of this here blog is an Italian (albeit by marriage)
2. Italians know how to make pasta taste like mere Americans can only dream of pasta tasting.
3. I've never seen pasta salad served in Italy or mentioned in any Italian recipes. I suspect it is a scandalous American invention.

One reason why I'm posting this recipe anyway:
1. It's just so durn tasty! And infinitely flexible. Plus I love ricotta salata. It's my new obsession- the texture and sheepy flavor of a good feta without that overwhelming saltiness. Yummm.

I made this with ingredients that were hanging out in the fridge and pantry, crying out to be used. I didn't measure while making this, so feel free play with it all as you like. It makes a great one bowl lunch, and an equally great dinner with a green salad and grilled fish or meat.

1 box penne regate (note: photo above features orrichiette...penne is better)
1 large eggplant
2 zucchini
1 large, juicy ready-to-eat tomato
approx 8 sundried tomatoes
a good handful of chopped kalamata olives (or other flavorful black olive)
hunk of ricotta salata (maybe about 1 cup crumbled)
1 large clove garlic
fresh basil (hmmm, maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons chopped)
a couple sprigs of fresh thyme, maybe 1 tablespoon leaves?
crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

The best way to start this recipe is to toss your sliced eggplant and zucchini on the grill (brush them with some olive oil or vinaigrette and salt/pepper first). Alternatively, you can roast the veggies in the oven until they are tender.

Finely mince the garlic or run it through a press into a small bowl. Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil over the garlic, shake some red pepper flakes into it, add a good grind of salt and pepper and the thyme leaves. Let this steep while you prepare the rest and it will become delicious and flavorful.

Bring a big pot of salted water to boil and add pasta- cook until just al dente (it's important not to overcook your pasta and to salt the water, right Italians?). Place the sundried tomatoes in a bowl and pour some of the boiling water over them and let them sit until you're ready for them- this will plump them up. While you're waiting for the water to boil/pasta to cook, dice the tomato, crumble the ricotta, chop the grilled veggies, sundried tomatoes, olives, basil, etc. and drop it all into a large serving bowl. When the pasta is ready, drain it into a colander and let it cool down a bit. Toss it into the serving bowl with the chopped stuff. Whisk about one tablespoon of balsamic into the steeping olive oil/garlic mixture and slowly toss it in with the pasta and veggies. Finish with salt and pepper to taste and serve.


Emilio said...

Hey Nisa, this recipe is very interesting! I can confirm that pasta salad is common in my country, so you fit perfectly in!

I think you got a gift for writing, I enjoy every post you put on this blog!

laurel said...

Five reasons I'm glad you posted this recipe:
1. Pasta salad is, in fact, served in Italy it's just that they call it "cold pasta" instead.
2. Even if it wasn't, it is a completely valid and delicious treat.
3. Not all good food in the world is Italian (don't tell Emi).
4. This particular recipe looks fabulous, and I can't wait to try it (did you sweat the egglplant first? that's the only reason i usually avoid eggplant.. the endless sweating..)
5. I love all your posts and recipes! Thank you!

Nisa said...

'sweating' of the eggplant is not necessary for this, in my opinion. just use a fresh eggplant.

i'm so glad you guys like my post! next time i'm in italy i'll have to try 'cold pasta' :-)