As the produce from the garden dwindles, it becomes more important to celebrate what we do have: the last of the eggplant and the final basil harvests. Last night we relished what may be the last fresh pesto (we’ve got a bunch frozen) with a harvest of eggplant and garden tomato sauce. A toast to summer and the satisfaction that a veggie garden brings!
A New Take on Eggplant Parmesan (faster, lighter, lower in fat)
First make a marinara sauce. Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, add one or two cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped, and cook until the garlic sizzles. Before the garlic starts to brown, add fresh (peeled), frozen, or canned tomatoes and three or four leaves of chopped, fresh basil. Cook down until it’s a thick tomato sauce.
- Peel and slice eggplant into rounds about 1/2 inch thick.
- Place these on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 until soft but not mushy. Around 25 minutes.
- Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese of your choice. I used Sargento Shredded Reduced Fat Four Cheese Italian, because I think it’s more flavorful than straight mozzarella. A mix of Parmesan and mozzarella would also be good as would feta or goat cheeses. Sprinkle all the eggplant with chopped flat-leaf parsley.
- Top with a big spoonful of marinara sauce. Return to the oven and bake for about 15 to 20 more minutes.
- Pick lots of basil and wash it well. Pick the leaves and flowers off the stems and spin them dry in a salad spinner. For pesto for four people you’ll need about 8 to 12 cups packed full of basil leaves….more is better because you can always freeze leftover pesto.
- Put the leaves into a food processor and add about a half cup olive oil to start. You can fill the bowl with leaves and the oil and blend, and then add more leaves. Add fresh or slightly cooked garlic – one or two cloves depending on how much you like garlic. Blend and add remaining leaves until you have a paste. Add extra olive oil if needed to make it smoother. Add a half of a cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Optional additions include toasted pine nuts, raw or toasted walnuts, or a three or four tablespoons of heavy cream.
- Put pesto in a bowl and cook spaghetti or linguine until it’s just done (al dente), strain and pour into the bowl. Toss with the pesto. Serve with more grated Parmesan cheese.
Pasta With Fresh Pesto
BTW – we grew our eggplants in large Smart Pots this year and it was wildly successful.