Penne Dash of Sorrento is an eggplant pasta dish that my husband and I discovered while on our honeymoon on the Amalfi Border, Italy.I grew up in an Italian household, but I had never had such a dish. It had been my dream to visit the Amalfi Border in Italy for many, many years. I saved and cherished an article on the beauty and breathtaking views of the area written in National Geographic Traveler for 10 years. When I met Wayne,
I told him about my dream, and our trip there became two dreams come true, i.e. finding someone wonderful to share my life with and a visit to this amazingly beautiful stretch of towns built into the side of hills from Naples to Sorrento to Salerno. We encountered this eggplant dish at dinner one evening in our hotel. There was something very unique in flavor, and although we asked everyone along the way about the ingredients, everyone inadvertently omitted one of the most important ingredients. When we returned, I purchased the simple repertoire of eggplant, garlic, oil, mozzarella, plum tomatoes, and parmigiana cheese. I made the dish, and it looked fantastic. We both took a bite and simultaneously looked at eachother, and almost said together, “Something is missing”. I did a little more research and discovered that our rendition was missing “ “Mozzarella di Bufala Affumicato”, otherwise known as Smoked Buffalo Mozzarella. I made the dish again using smoked mozzarella (unfortunately not the imported Buffalo version), but it definitely put the punch back in the dish. Try this on your spouse, your friends, your family. It is a magical use of the incredible la melanzana, that is, eggplant. You will love it.
Penne Dash of Sorrento
1/2-8oz Smoked Braided Mozzarella (need the smoked type)
2-Small Eggplants, peeled and chopped (small are best)
4-Ripe Plum Tomatoes (skinned and chopped)
3 to 4-Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1-Pound Penne Pasta (Tinkyada or Gluten Free Bionature are good picks)
3/4-Small Ball Poly-o Mozzarella, dicedFresh grated parmigiana cheese
Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
About ¼ cup good quality olive oil (you may need just a little more)
Have all your ingredients chopped and lined up to go for this dish. Put your water onto boil for the pasta.When the water boils, drop your fresh whole tomatoes in the water for about 2 minutes.Remove and drain. Skin will come right off with a knife. Chop and set aside.Take half of the oil and sauté quickly diced eggplant. Set aside.Sauté chopped garlic in remainder of olive oil until tender; do not burn as it will make your sauce bitter.
Keep moving it in the sizzling oil with a spatula or spoon.Add your chopped plum tomatoes juice and all. Simmer for a minute. Add your eggplant.Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.Salt your pasta water. Put your penne on to boil. When done, drain. Save about ¾ cup of the macaroni water when you drain the pasta.Put the drained pasta right into the skillet with the tomato/eggplant mixture. Add diced mozzarella cheeses, parmigiana to taste, freshly chopped basil and mix.
Cover, turn off heat and let the cheeses melt into the pasta. You may need to add just a little macaroni water. You be the judge of that.Serve immediately.(A nice salad, crusty Italian bread and table wine would complete the meal).
Wayne and me in La Taverna del Leone, Positano, Italy (a rustic pizzeria with an antipasto spread like no other. Italian food to die for!)