Provider Farm

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Charred eggplant and walnut pesto pasta salad

Course: 
Ingredients: 
  • Salt
  • 1/2 pound pasta (I used Setaro’s organietti, but other radiatore shapes are great here)
  • 1 medium eggplant (1 pound)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Additional sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil
  • 3/4 cup (2 3/4 ounces) walnuts, toasted and cooled first for best flavor
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, cleaned
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, plus more at end
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more at end
  • 2 tablespoons (about 3) minced sun-dried tomatoes (oil or dry-packed will both work)
  • Freshly ground black pepper and/or red pepper flakes
Directions: 

Cook pasta: In very well salted water until 1 to 2 minutes before doneness and drain.

Prepare eggplant: Trim eggplant and slice into 1/2-inch coins. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat grill to medium-high. Arrange eggplant in one layer and cook until charred underneath, about 8 minutes. (If it’s sticking to the grill, it wants to cook longer.) Flip pieces over and cook until charred on second side, about 5 to 8 minutes more. Set aside to cool slightly then chop into chunks.

No grill? Heat oven to 425. Trim eggplant and slice into 1/2-inch coins. Coat a baking sheet generously with olive oil, arrange eggplant on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, without disturbing, for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece: the undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release easily; if they don’t want to, cook them a few minutes longer. Flip each piece, sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and roast on the second side for 10 to 12 minutes, or until charred underneath again.

Make dressing: In food processor, coarsely grind walnuts, cheese, garlic, thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper and/or red pepper flakes. Stir in oil and tomatoes, then whisk in vinegar to taste.

Assemble salad: Toss cooked pasta with walnut dressing and additional vinegar and oil to loosen (I used about 1 tablespoon extra oil and 2 tablespoons extra vinegar in total). Chop eggplant into chunks, add to bowl and toss again. Adjust seasonings to taste, then stir in cheese and herbs.

Credit: 
Smitten Kitchen