Thursday, November 02, 2006

Penne with Aubergine, Tomato and Mozzarella


The River Cafe in west London is something of an institution these days having produced some of the best Italian food in the land as well as providing work experience to the likes Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Their guiding principle of sourcing the very best to produce the very best and putting in vast amounts of energy and ingenuity to ensure an endlessly evolving process was unusual when they started out. Their unflagging commitment to this same principle twenty years on is a joy to witness.

As well as running the restaurant Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray have written six cook books and contribute generously to other magazines and newspapers so that we can all eat well and learn new techniques and combinations. In the last month's Observer Food Magazine the theme was making perfect versions of various things like roast chicken and beef stew. The recipes for the various perfect pastas on offer were written by these two amazing women and so came with a gold plated guarantee. The first one I have made is perfect penne.

Pasta with aubergine, tomato and mozzarella

Serves 4

350g penne
2 aubergines, thinly sliced
500g plum tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
250g mozzarella, freshly grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
extra-virgin olive oil

Lay the sliced aubergines on kitchen paper and sprinkle with sea salt. Leave for 20 minutes to allow the bitter juices to drain. Rinse in cold water and pat dry.


Heat 3 tbs of olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the garlic and parsley and cook until soft. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the chillies and 2 tsp of sea salt, and cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes.

Heat 4 tbs of olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed frying pan. Fry the aubergines in batches until brown and crisp on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper. Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, return to the pan and add the tomato sauce. Stir to coat, then add the aubergine and finally the mozzarella. Serve immediately.

Cold for lunch the next day it was perfection revisited.