This Eggplant Romesco Rigatoni treats the meaty eggplant very well indeed, roasting it with onions and peppers before blending it with tomatoes and toasted almonds for an amazing pasta sauce that just to happens to be vegan.
What Worked: Transforming a classic Catalan sauce into to a pasta topper is a great move. The eggplant lends a great meatiness to this vegan meal.
What Didn't: This sauce is a keeper, no problems here.
Suggested Tweaks: Romesco can be used as a dip or a sauce for seafood. We envision ourselves going that route with the leftovers.
- 2 dried pasilla or ancho chile peppers
- 1 globe eggplant (about 1 pound), unpeeled, cut in large dice
- 2 medium red bell peppers, cut in large dice
- 1/2 medium red onion, quartered
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for drizzling
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/3 cup whole almonds
- 1 slice country-style or sourdough bread
- 1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
- 1 pound freshly cooked rigatoni, 1/2 cup of pasta water reserved for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Set the dried chiles in a bowl and add boiling water just to cover. Weight with a small ramekin to keep the chiles submerged. Set aside.
Place the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Rub the seasonings in with your fingers. Spread the vegetables in a single layer.
Dump the tomatoes and their juices in a medium baking dish. Set both the baking sheet and the baking dish on separate oven racks and roast until the eggplant and peppers have browned, about 30 minutes, stirring everything twice. Remove everything from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°F.
Allow the eggplant mixture to cool for 5 minutes, then scrape into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Place the almonds and the bread on the same baking sheet and brush the bread on both sides with the remaining olive oil. Toast in the oven, flipping the bread halfway through, about 8 minutes total. Break the bread into pieces.
While the bread and nuts cool, drain, stem, seed, and rough-chop the chiles and add them to the food processor. Add the nuts, bread, and tomatoes with any residual juices as well. Purée until smooth. Serve with hot rigatoni, adding a bit of pasta water (1 tablespoon at a time) to thin the sauce, if desired, and garnishing each portion with parsley and a final drizzle of olive oil.