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Spaghetti with oven-roast tomatoes and eggplant

There is a looming tomato crisis in my garden. At the beginning of the summer growing season, through a combination of busyness and laziness, I repeatedly missed the opportunity to plant our annual crop of tomatoes. Weeks, then months, passed, with the vegie patch receiving little or no attention but then, as I looked out one summer’s morning, I saw that where there had been only a patch of soil in a tastefully rustic raised garden bed, there were now three flourishing tomato plants, already top-heavy with fruit.

Given their neglected start in life, these must be the toughest, most self-reliant (and self-seeding) plants imaginable but now that they’ve got going, they don’t know when to stop – they are threatening total garden domination. My next door neighbour just rang me, her voice nervous, to report that they have now crossed the fence and begun an assault on her property as well.

So, as Katherine and I had been thinking about a light, summery, vegetarian pasta sauce and as a tomato cull is clearly in order, I thought I’d combine the two, in a sauce which has skinned, diced roma tomatoes as its base and roast grape tomatoes as flavour bomb highlights, along with roasted eggplant and basil. This will freeze and reheat very well so it’s worth making a batch if you or your greengrocer has a tomato glut – it’s a great one to pull from the freezer for unexpected vegetarian guests. 

Gluten free people, dieters or carb-avoiders, I've tossed this through just blanched zucchini noodles and it was delicious.

Spaghetti with oven-roast tomatoes and eggplant

Serves 6

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

30 ml olive oil

2 tsp salt

700g eggplant (2 smallish), diced into 2cm cubes

300g grape (or cherry) tomatoes, halved

1 onion, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 kg roma or other medium-sized tomatoes, skinned and diced (800g of diced tinned is fine)

1 sprig of thyme

1 handful of basil leaves

500g dried spaghetti

2 teaspoons salt

To serve: extra basil leaves and grated parmesan

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Toss the eggplant in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt, spread on two baking paper-lined baking trays and roast for about 30 minutes or until brown and soft.

Shake off into a bowl and lay the cut grape tomatoes on one of the lined trays then put it back in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes or until beginning to blister. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil with the diced onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes or until soft but not browned. Add the diced tomato and the leaves from a sprig of thyme and cook over a medium heat, stirring every so often, for about 20 minutes or until thick. Taste for seasoning and make any adjustments you’d like.

Very gently, stir the roast eggplant and tomatoes, along with the handful of plucked basil leaves, through the tomato sauce and bring back to a low heat while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large saucepan of well salted water to the boil and add the spaghetti. Cook according to the packet’s instructions until al dente, then drain. Toss the sauce through the pasta, using a little of the cooking water if it needs loosening up, then serve, with plenty of grated parmesan and extra basil.