Sunday, June 23, 2013

Orecchiette Pasta with Caramelized Eggplant

Welcome friends and foodies to another entry of The Tasteful Texan! It's Sunday here in the states, and that means I'm looking for an easy supper to feed my family. I honestly can't think of anything easier than pasta, other than a casserole and I've done a billion of those here. Obviously, there will be a little bit of work, but I don't really mind as long as I don't have to slum in the kitchen for 2 hours.

We will be working with orecchiette pasta today. Orecchiette roughly means "small ear". If you look closely at one of the pasta pieces, you can see a resemblance to the curvature of an ear. This pasta is typical in Puglia, a Southern region in Italy.

I don't want to ramble today, so I'm going to cut to the chase. I'm ready to get in the kitchen and create food magic. Are you ready to join me? Excellent! Let's go!

Orecchiette Pasta with Caramelized Eggplant
Yields 4 servings

You will need:

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1.25 teaspoons sea salt, divided use
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided use
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 Italian eggplants (small variety), diced into small, 1/2” cubes
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces Orecchiette pasta
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese for garnish


  1. In a medium-size bowl, add the ground pork, 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, the red pepper flakes, 1 clove of the pressed garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the dry oregano, and mix well with fingers to combine, then set aside.
  2. Place a heavy-bottom braiser or large pan over medium-high heat, and add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil to it. 
  3. Once the oil is hot, add in the onion and the eggplant, and sauté/caramelize for about 6 minutes until a light golden color. 
  4. Once caramelized, remove the eggplant/onion mixture with a slotted spoon, and set aside for a moment. 
  5. Add another little drizzle of olive oil, and the ground seasoned pork to the pan by taking little chunks and crumbling them. 
  6. Sauté the pork in the oil, gently moving it with a spoon to brown, but not break up, for about 4 to 5 minutes. 
  7. Next, add the eggplant/onion mixture back into the pan with the pork, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, as well as the remaining 3 cloves of pressed garlic. 
  8. Stir the mixture together gently, and then add the wine in, scraping up the browned bit on the bottom of the braiser/pan. 
  9. Add in the diced tomatoes and the remaining dry oregano, stir, and place the lid slightly askew on the braiser/pan, and simmer on low for 45 minutes until thickened.
  10. During the last 20 minutes that the Ragu cooks, cook the Orecchiette pasta according to package instructions. 
  11. When the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, and drizzle with some olive oil to keep it from sticking, then leave it in the colander covered with a kitchen towel to keep warm until the sauce is finished.
  12. Once the Ragu has simmered, turn the heat off, and add the chopped fresh oregano and parsley, then stir to combine. 
  13. Add the cooked pasta directly into the sauce and gently fold the pasta with the Ragu. 
  14. When the pasta is well coated with the sauce, spoon equal amounts into bowls, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and garnish with a generous amount of the grated Asiago cheese.
  15. Enjoy!

Have a great remainder of your weekend. I'll be back again tomorrow, but until then, happy blogging and I'll catch you on the flip side!