The Food Maven Diary
Spaghetti with Eggplant and Mozzarella
The Radisson Diamond docks at Sorrento today and the WOR group has a choice of visiting the beautiful but very touristic town of Sorrento, or going around the tip of the Sorrento peninsula and touring the Amalfi Coast, or day-tripping to Capri, which, for those of you unfamiliar with the geography, is an island right off the tip of the Sorrento peninsula. The following recipe, from my book Naples At Table will be one of the choices at dinner on the ship tonight.
Spaghetti con Melanzane e Mozzarella
(Spaghetti with Eggplant and Mozzarella)
Although this is made all over the region of Campania, on Capri it's called aumme aumme, dialect for "hush, hush." It's a common expression, although no one I've asked can explain why the name applies to this dish. Instead of mozzarella, a large amount of grated cheese may be used, but either way the pasta gets stringy with cheese, which is as it is supposed to be.
1 pound eggplant, peeled or unpeeled, as desired, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Oil for frying
2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 pint (1 pound) cherry tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters, depending on size
12 to 14 ounces spaghetti
2 tablespoons finely cut basil or parsley
8 ounces fresh or several-day-old mozzarella (fior di latte - cow's milk cheese), cut into 1/4-inch cubes or 1 cup grated pecorino or ricotta salata
1. Salt the eggplant and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes or longer. Dry it well with paper towels, pressing the eggplant to remove moisture.
2. In a skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of oil and fry the eggplant until it is soft and lightly browned. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
3. Pour out (and discard) all but about 2 tablespoons of the frying oil. Add the garlic, place over low heat, and cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil a couple of times to release its flavor, until it barely begins to color on both sides. Remove the garlic.
4. Add the tomatoes, immediately cover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and cook the tomatoes until they fall apart and become saucy, about 8 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti until al dente in plenty of salted, boiling water.
6. Just before the pasta is done, add the eggplant cubes to the tomato sauce, lower the heat, and cook gently, still covered, for another minute or so.
7. Drain the spaghetti and turn it into a well-warmed serving bowl. Add the eggplant and tomato sauce, plus the finely cut herb. Toss well. Add the mozzarella and toss again.
8. Serve immediately, passing grated pecorino or ricotta salata.