Meatless Monday: Rigatoni With Creamy Eggplant and Mozzarella

It's Meatless Monday -- make a twist on eggplant parmesan: sauteed eggplant tossed with pasta in a creamy red sauce.
By: Michelle Buffardi

Summer's over, I suppose. It went by so fast. Suddenly it's a bit chilly in the evenings and no one's wearing white pants or eating watermelon anymore. Time to unpack your sweaters and start eating heartier food featuring fall vegetables -- soups, pasta dishes, casseroles and gratins.

Egglpant's in season and the default vegetarian Italian dish is eggplant parmesan. On this Meatless Monday, take a break from the slab of fried eggplant doused with sauce and melted cheese (side of spaghetti or on a sub) and flip this dish on it's head. Serve the eggplant in the pasta, instead of next to it, and add some cream and melty, fresh mozzarella.

The best part about Aida Mollenkamp's Rigatoni With Creamy Eggplant and Mozzarella is that it's done in less than 20 minutes. And there's no deep frying, so it's a bit healthier and you won't stink up your kitchen with fry oil.

Aida's Rigatoni With Creamy Eggplant and Mozzarella

Serves: 4-6

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 medium Japanese eggplant, medium dice (about 4 cups)
1 (15-ounce) container crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup loosely packed thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 pound rigatoni or penne rigate
8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, small dice

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and garlic and cook until just softened. Add eggplant, stir to coat in oil, then let cook, stirring rarely, until softened and golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove half eggplant mixture and reserve.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the tomatoes, cream, and half the basil, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld and sauce is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Drain pasta and return to the pot off the heat. Pour sauce over top and stir until well coated. Add reserved eggplant, remaining basil, and mozzarella and mix until the cheese starts to soften. Serve immediately.

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