Recipe for Rigatoni Melanzana

March 22, 2014 Updated: March 21, 2014

Rigatoni Melanzana 

Courtesy of chef and partner Ralph Scamardella, LAVO Italian Restaurant, New York


8 ounces rigatoni
8 ounces San Marzano tomatoes 
1 8-ounce ball of buffala mozzarella, broken into pieces
1 medium fresh eggplant, peeled like a zebra and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tablespoons Pecorino Romano
1 handful fresh out-of-the-garden basil
1 tablespoon lightly chopped Italian parsley to finish and garnish
Salt and pepper to season

Place the diced eggplant in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt, toss well, and place in a colander.
Put the colander in a deep bowl and put in refrigerator and let drain for about an hour (this will remove any bitterness in the eggplant).
Remove to a sheet pan with paper towels and pat dry
In a large sauté pan add 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil and heat on medium about 5 minutes, oil should look as though it’s swirling, hot, but not smoking.
Add eggplant in 2 batches and season lightly with sea salt.
Sauté until golden brown turning on all sides, remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels.
Repeat until all eggplant is cooked, adding oil if necessary.
Hold eggplant for finishing dish.

Fill a 4-quart stock pot with water and bring to a boil.
Add enough salt so it has the taste of the sea.
Add rigatoni and cook about 12 minutes to al dente. As you are cooking pasta begin your sauce.

Sauce + Melanzana
In a large sauté pan add 2 ounces olive oil and, when hot, add the garlic and sauté until golden.
Add the tomatoes, break them up a bit and season with salt and pepper.
Add the basil, cook about 5 minutes on medium heat, but don’t reduce the volume.
Add the pasta to the sauce and cook on low heat 2 minutes.
Add almost all the eggplant and heat thoroughly. 
Season with half of the grated cheese and adjust salt and pepper. 
Toss in almost all the buffala mozzarella and with a wooden spoon and mix quickly. Buffala mozzarella should just be warmed up. 
Move directly to a large pasta platter.
Arrange the rest of the eggplant and mozzarella around the top of the pasta.
Sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese and Italian parsley and basil leaves. 

This recipe is family-style so it will be enough as an appetizer or main course for four adults. It is very simple and the ingredients must be the best you can get.

Don’t forget a loaf of Italian bread to finish up all the delicious sauce!