Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Roasted Asian Eggplant, Fennel and Garlic Pasta

Pasta makes me happy, happy, BUT THIS PASTA? Well, it's a game changer.

A few times every summer, I've tried to make a habit of going to the Farmer's Market and finding a vegetable or two that I've never cooked with before. A lot of stands will have signs next to most of their produce describing the flavor and some ideas on how to cook it; if not, I strongly recommend you talk to the folks working the stand--they are the most knowledgeable after all!

Last week, I came away from the market with some classics--big giant zucchini, green and golden, as well as blackberries and local onions--as well as some newer veggies. I decided to try these adorable Asian eggplants as well as a fennel bulb! 

I have never much enjoyed traditional eggplant, both in taste and texture, but I liked the IDEA of eggplant. When I saw that Asian eggplants have a softer skin and are milder in flavor compared to regular eggplants, I felt confident that this is what would change my mind on eggplant (when combined with buttery noodles, creamy roasted garlic, and parmesan cheese of course).

As for fennel, I just never really gave it a chance. I don't really love a strong licorice flavor, so I was judging a book by it's cover and simply assuming I wouldn't like fennel. How wrong I was! Golden brown roasted fennel has a wonderful depth of flavor and is sweet and savory--the perfect compliment to this pasta dish.

This is an easy and delicious dinner that is perfect to whip up on a busy work night or to impress guests on the weekend. Roasted garlic and plenty of butter bring everything together. This pasta is filling yet light thanks to lemon juice and plenty of fresh parsley. I'm sure you're going to love it!

Here's what you need for Roasted Asian Eggplant, Fennel and Garlic Pasta* (Print Recipe!)

3 small Asian eggplants, diced
1 bulb fennel, core and fronds removed, diced
1 tablespoon light olive oil
salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste
3 large cloves garlic, still in the skin but with the tops cut off slightly
6 tablespoons butter
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley plus more for garnish

Here's what you do

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the eggplant and fennel in a single layer on the baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. In one corner, roll the garlic cloves in a bit of the foil to cover completely. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the fennel and eggplant are golden and the garlic is soft and fragrant.

While the vegetables roast, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta until aldente, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins and into the butter, whisking until dissolved, then stir in the reserved cooking liquid. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir in the parmesan cheese and parsley. Toss until well combined. Enjoy immediately.

*Gas Stove Girl Original Recipe

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