Rach chops all the veggies "confetti-size" to help them cook faster for this pasta tossed with a caponata ragu.
"Well, size is everything, in this case!" Rach says. "By fine-dicing the elements of a favorite cold appetizer, caponata, we have a new family go-to, hot and hearty vegetable-based ragu to serve with pasta as a main course."
- 1 large eggplant, trim half the skin, then chop into ¼-inch dice (about 5 cups)
- 2 to 3 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped ¼ inch dice
- 1 ½ cups finely chopped sweet and/or hot peppers, red and green combined
- 1 large onion (or 2 small onions), chopped
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup combined black and green olives, pitted and chopped
- 3 to 4 tablespoons drained capers in brine
- About ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
- 2 pints small cherry tomatoes (4 to 5 cups), halved or, if large, quartered
- About 2 tablespoons sundried tomato paste or tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili paste, optional
- 1 small handful fresh basil leaves, torn
- 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 pound long fusilli, short fusilli or orecchiette
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Arrange eggplant on kitchen towel, salt and cover with another towel and weight with a heavy pan to drain excess liquids, 20 to 30 minutes.
Put a pot with 5 to 6 quarts of water on to boil for pasta.
Chop and prep a confetti dice of celery, sweet and/or hot peppers, onion, garlic, olives, and capers, arranging your mise en place in piles on a large work surface or in ingredient bowls.
Heat a large deep skillet or wide pan over medium to medium-high heat with EVOO, 4 turns of the pan. Add the chopped vegetables and season with a little salt. Cover skillet and soften vegetables 7 to 8 minutes, stirring or shaking pan frequently. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and Calabrian chili paste and stir in a handful of small basil leaves and a handful of parsley.
Salt water and cook pasta a minute less than package directions to allow for carryover cooking. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain pasta, return to hot pot. Combine pasta with ⅔ of the vegetable sauce, half the cooking water, a fat drizzle of EVOO and about 1 cup of grated Parm. Toss with tongs for 1 full minute to emulsify and serve family- style or in shallow bowls topped with remaining sauce.