Fresh pastas are most oftened paired with delicate sauces. The counterexample is a rich, flavorful ragu over wide noodles like pappardelle. Eggplant makes a terrific vegetarian ragu, accented by bell peppers and fresh ricotta. If you like, you can make this ragu pleasingly spicy by using Fresno peppers instead of red bells.
This dish is exceptional if you make your own fresh pasta at home, but still fantastic if using store-bought fresh pasta. I just got the pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixeras a Hanukkah present. What a difference it makes! I like my old hand-crank machine, but I always sort of wished I had three or four hands when I used it.
With the machine turning the rollers for me, it leaves me free to concentrate on getting the texture of the dough just right, adding a spritz of water or a dusting of flour if needed. Would folks find it useful if I made a video of how to do this?
A few more tips on the recipe: Be sure to cook the pasta al dente so that its elastic bite contrasts with the melting texture of the eggplant and ricotta. Also, gather all of the garnishes in advance, so when the pasta is finished you can apply them quickly and get the hot bowls right to the table.
Pappardelle with Eggplant Ragu and Fresh Ricotta
Serves 3-4 / 30 minutes
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 red bell pepper, or for a spicy version
- 3 Fresno chilis, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 pound fresh pappardelle or other fresh pasta, preferably wide, flat noodles
- 1 ½ cups fresh ricotta cheese, room temperature (Calabro is an excellent brand)
- minced parsley or mint
- fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- zest of 1 orange
- fresh ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set serving bowls aside to warm.
- Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute, not allowing the garlic to burn. Add the eggplant, chili flakes and Kosher salt. Lower the heat to medium. Saute, stirring occasionally until the eggplant is nearly tender. You can give it a little more oil if you need to, but don’t get carried away, as it will just keep soaking it up. If there is a lot of sticking, lower the heat and add some of the red wine early.
- Add the red pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Deglaze with the red wine, and continue to cook until the eggplant is fully tender. Reduce heat to very low. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Boil the pasta according to package directions. For fresh pappardelle this will usually be about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of water. Toss the noodles with the simmering eggplant ragu, mixing in some or all of the pasta water to achieve a light glaze on the noodles but definitely not a soupy sauce.
- Divide the pasta among the serving bowls. Divide the ricotta as well, placing a few tablespoon-sized dabs on each plate. Garnish with the parsley or mint, Parmesan cheese, orange zest and black pepper and serve immediately.