We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there.
Today: A weeknight pasta dish that doesn't need any new friends and will proudly stand alone as your entire dinner (though a drink couldn't hurt).
Yes, you could pair this pasta with an array of salads and sides, but that would defeat the purpose. The beauty of a perfect weeknight pasta dish is that it's not needy; it can -- it will -- stand alone. There's no need for your fork to wander off towards the sautéed greens when it's busy unraveling linguine from garlic-soaked eggplant and spicy tomato sauce.
If you absolutely must make something else, cook some lentils and add them to the pasta. If you're not feeding vegans, grate fresh cheese over top. But we're inclined to let the pasta take center stage and devote minimal effort to making a refreshing drink, instead. Because even with the most complete pasta dish in the world, we could still use a good beverage.
Serves 4 to 6
2 medium eggplants
1 medium onion
3 to 4 plum tomatoes or one 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 pound linguine or other long pasta
Limes (1 per person)
We assume you have salt, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and sugar in your house. If not, add those to the list, too.
1. Stick as many glasses as you have drinkers in the refrigerator to chill. Next, cut the eggplants crosswise into 1 inch-thick slices, lay them on a baking sheet, salt well on both sides, and set aside for about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prepare all of your other ingredients. Chop 1 medium onion, mince 2 cloves of garlic, and, if you’re using fresh tomatoes, cut enough so that you end up with 2 cups. Chop 1/4 cup of fresh basil, then set all of these ingredients aside.
3. Next, preheat the oven to 425° F and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the eggplant, tossing the slices to coat them. Season them with salt and pepper, then roast for 20 minutes.
4. While the eggplant roasts, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the chopped onion and the minced garlic and sautée until the onions are soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the fresh or canned tomatoes, oregano, 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes, and the chopped basil. Cook the sauce until it thickens, another 10 to 12 minutes, and stir it occasionally. When the eggplant in the oven is tender and browning, chop it into 1-inch pieces and add it to the sauce. Continue to simmer the sauce on low low heat.
5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
6. As the pasta cooks, make your drinks. Juice as many limes as you have diners. For each person, you’ll also want 4 to 6 mint leaves and a tablespoon of sugar. Muddle the lime juice, mint, and sugar. Transfer to a cocktail shaker with ice and a shot of gin per person.
7. When the pasta is finished, drain it and gently fold it in the sauce. Top with additional chopped basil and red pepper flakes to taste. Complete your meal by pouring the gin mixture into your chilled glasses and topping each with Prosecco.
Photos by James Ransom