The scenario: It’s been a hell of a day. The weather is somewhere between snow and rain – not bad enough to warrant a snow day, but plenty dreary to make it hard to get out of bed. You spent too many hours at work. You feel like putting on your slippers and taking a nap on the couch rather than going to the grocery store, but you are in no position to drop forty bucks on take-out that will feed you once and will only only satisfy you until twenty minutes after you begin eating, at which point you know you will feel bloated and slightly guilty for overeating.
You grab your reusable grocery bag and head over to your local market, which is overcrowded and understocked. One thing is for sure: you want pasta, which, let’s face it, is the ultimate comfort food. You start at the meat counter, but everything looks sadly picked over. They are even out of Italian sausage. Yikes. The seafood counter is no better, offering mostly frozen and farm raised selections, none of which seem to work well with what you have in mind. It’s decided – tonight you are going vegetarian.
With these ingredients and a few other pantry staples, you have a healthy, delicious dinner under control that will fill you up and taste so delicious you will forget about the rest of your day. And the best part is you will be eating it in about 35 minutes. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed, and neither will anyone you feed it to.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the bell pepper(s) on a baking sheet and roast in the oven, turning the pepper every five minutes or so until your sauce is ready for it.
Boil water for your pasta. By the time it is boiling and the pasta is done, your sauce will be done.
Peel and slice your eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Liberally salt and place in a bowl. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large, non-stick skillet. Slice red onion into quarter rings and add to the skillet. Peel and half or quarter six cloves of garlic. Don’t be afraid to leave these so large. They will become sweet and caramelized and will add a wonderful flavor to your sauce. Add garlic, red pepper, and some salt to the skillet. Once the onions are beginning to become translucent, add the eggplant. Cover with a secure lid. The eggplant will steam itself as it releases it’s liquid and will break down into a sweet and beautiful mush (see picture above). Cook the vegetables for about 15 minutes. Keep covered, but stir occasionally. Keep turning your red pepper, too!
Once the eggplant becomes mushy and golden (almost like the consistency of a cooked banana), you are ready to add the wine. Cook the alcohol off, and then add the canned tomatoes. If they are whole, crush them with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low.
Pull your red pepper from the oven. If the skin is not sliding right off, put the pepper in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. The steam will loosen up the skin and continue cooking the flesh. Peel, remove the stem and the seeds, thinly slice, and add to your sauce. Add the capers. Slice the basil into ribbons and add to the sauce. Toss the cooked linguine in with the sauce. Garnish with the mascarpone (mixed with black pepper for an extra kick). Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
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