This recipe came from a wonderful memoir/cookbook that I recently read entitled “Perdutamente–Crazy for Italian Food” by prolific cookbook author and friend, Joe Famularo.
Greeks, Arabs, Byzantine, Normans–all of these civilizations have occupied Sicily at various times throughout history, and all have left their aromatic spices in the Sicilian culinary repertoire.
The sound of curry and pasta intrigued me–I happen to love curry and don’t routinely cook with it, so this was a new experience for me. I broke one of my cardinal entertaining rules and made the dish for guests, without having tried it first on myself. My guests assured me they were happy to act as my food testers and proclaimed the dish a success.
I’ve modified the recipe here only slightly, reducing the amount of cream, and eliminating the preliminary salting and draining of the eggplant–a step which I’ve come to feel is generally unneccessary.
Right now, here in Florida, I happen to have access to beautiful local in-season zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes at my farmers’ market, which made the dish all the more appealing to make. Additionally, there is a spice vendor at the market who grinds and roasts a myriad of wonderful spices and blends. His madras curry had a wonderful aroma, so I bought a tiny quantity of it, knowing that it will lose its pungency over time. Now I have reason to experiment with curry until I use up my little bag of it.
This recipe takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. The vegetables and tomato sauce may be made in advance, then the dish takes only about 15 minutes to assemble and plate.
Joe Famularo’s Sicilian Rigatoni with Eggplant, Zucchini and Curry
4 small zucchini (about 7″ – 8″ long)
1 large eggplant
1/2 c olive oil
2 pints grape tomatoes
1/2 of a small onion
12 fresh basil leaves
1 c heavy cream
1 tbl curry powder
1 lb. rigatoni
grated parmigiano for sprinkling
salt and black pepper to taste
Partially peel eggplant, leaving the occasional strip of skin on. Cut into 3/4″ cubes. Saute in 1/4 cup olive oil over high heat until lightly golden and soft (about 10 minutes). Add salt to taste. Set aside.
Add another 2 tablespoons olive oil to the same skillet. Dice zucchini into 3/4″ cubes and sauté until slightly golden and tender (another 10 minutes).
Set vegetables aside.
Make tomato sauce by pureeing grape tomatoes in the food processor, then placing in a small pot.
Add the half onion, 6 basil leaves, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bring to a simmer and allow to perk away on low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove onion, taste and add salt and pepper. Set aside.
The dish may be prepared to this point about an hour ahead of time.
When ready to serve, bring pasta water to a boil and add enough salt to make it aggressively salty.
White pasta is cooking, prepare sauce in a skillet large enough to hold pasta and sauce. Combine tomato sauce, heavy cream, and curry and bring to a simmer.
Add cooked pasta and vegetables to the sauce and top with the remaining basil leaves.
Add in about a cup of pasta cooking liquid and stir for about a minute over high heat to combine pasta with sauce.