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Author Notes: It's kind of surprising this recipe drew me in, because.... well, here’s the thing -- I don’t really get too excited about pasta. Nor do I ever suggest going to an Italian restaurant for dinner, or even make traditional meals for friends. This might not be that surprising, I guess, except that my mother’s side of the family is Italian, and I spent a summer in Italy, studying the art as well as the language.
Marjoram, on the other hand, has always interested me, although I admit not really understanding when to use it, outside of adding it to a homemade tomato sauce. So when I saw this recipe from Missy Robbins of New York’s A Voce in Food and Wine starring the stuff, I decided to give it a try. And people… oh, man, is this dish ever good. Seriously, make this. It was fantastic, and complex and made me love pasta again. I adapted it a bit, because I don't have access to a grill, but I think the heart of the recipe still remains.
pounds italian eggplant
2 tbsp olive oil
cup red wine vinegar
sprigs fresh marjoram + 2 tbsp leaves
teaspoon chili flakes
pound orecchiette pasta
tablespoons pecorino romano, freshly grated.
pound burrata cheese
zest of 1 lemon
oil packed piquillo peppers
cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Turn on the broiler. Slice the eggplant in 1 inch thick slices, and line a large colander in the sink with them. Salt fairly heavily, and let sit for about 10 minutes or so. Rinse the slices, then pat dry and lay on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Using a microplane grater, grate 1 of the garlic cloves into the oil. Brush the tops of the eggplant, and place under the broiler for approximately 5 minutes. Eggplant should just be starting to brown and just starting to blister. Using a set of tongs or a spatula, flip over the eggplant, brush with a bit more of the garlic oil, and put back in the oven for another 3 minutes. It is important not to overcook the eggplant and turn it to mush.
- After it has cooled, chop the eggplant into pieces. I like to cut the larger wheels in half, then in three wedges from each side. Put the pieces into a bowl, and pour in the red wine vinegar, tossing gently.
- In a small saucepan, heat the 1/4 c. of oil with the marjoram sprigs, the remaining two garlic cloves, grated, and the chili flakes. Add a bit of kosher salt, and heat the oil, lightly cooking the garlic. Remove from heat and pour over the eggplant, again gently tossing to coat. Let sit for about an hour.
- Boil water, salt it, and add the dried pasta. Cook until al dente, and drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot, pull the marjoram sprigs from the bowl, and add the marinated eggplant, cooking lightly for a minute or so on the burner.
- Add the pecorino romano, the fresh chopped parsley, the additional marjoram leaves, and the sliced chilies. Top with dottings of burrata and the lemon zest. Enjoy!