This aromatic dish is pleasing to the eye and the palette. There are a few steps involved, but for the most part it is pretty basic. This is the sort of recipe that you can substitute whatever vegetable you desire or whatever looks fresh at the market. Add or take away ingredients according to how much you’d like to make. Here is what I usually use for about 4 small servings:
1 Eggplant cut into three sections crosswise, half of a red onion (more or less), 4-6 plum tomatoes, halved and cored, 4-6 garlic cloves, whole wheat rigatoni, small handful pine nuts, little bit of crushed red pepper, a few kalamata olives if you’d like, 1/4 cup sliced basil, a small handful of chopped parsley, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmigiano reggiano (of course)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the eggplant and sliced red onion on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the whole, peeled garlic cloves on one section of the same sheet pan and place the halved tomatoes over them, upside down, so that the garlic is hiding under the tomato half. This will allow the tomatoes to soak up all of that roasty garlicky aroma and flavor. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes.
About 30 minutes into roasting, take out the sheet pan and, using tongs, bring the eggplant sections to your cutting board. Slice the eggplant into a few pieces. Place back on the sheet pan and put the sheet pan back in the oven to finish roasting.
At the end of the 40 minutes, take the garlic out from underneath the tomatoes. Then put the pan back in the oven for about 20 more minutes until the tomatoes are quite soft. You can take out the eggplant when it is very tender and browned, usually about 50 minutes. Place the eggplant and garlic in a bowl and set aside.
When the tomatoes are finished roasting, carefully remove as much of the tomato skin as you can. Chop the tomatoes on your cutting board.
In a pot of boiling water, cook the rigatoni until just al dente. Reserve a ladleful of the starchy pasta water that collects on the top. While the pasta is cooking, heat a little bit of olive oil in a skillet large enough for all of the pasta and vegetables (unless you’d like to toss everything in the pot you used to cook the pasta). Toast the pine nuts in the skillet until golden over medium heat. This will take just a few minutes. Add a little bit of crushed red pepper if you’d like, as well as the olives if you are using them, and cook for one minute. Add the eggplant and tomatoes and toss over medium high heat for just two minutes.
Drain the pasta and pour it into the skillet. Grate a little bit of reggiano on it while it is very hot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the reserved cooking water spoonful by spoonful so as not to make it too watery. Use whatever you think you need to keep it moist. Add the basil and parsley and toss. Serve immediately with more grated reggiano on top.