Rachael and John's Anniversary Meal: Pasta with Eggplant and Pork
This recipe has become a family favorite of ours. I wrote this recipe based on a late summer lunch John and I shared while planning our wedding in Montalcino, Italy. It's simple to make but very special in the combination of flavors. I've tried to perfect it over the 5 years I’ve been making it.
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- A good pinch of saffron threads, about 24
- 1 medium-size firm eggplant, a little over a pound or so in weight
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 teaspoon fennel pollen or seed, 1/3 palmful
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 small onion, grated or very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 chili pepper – Italian red cherry or Fresno, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 pound short-cut pasta, whatever shape you like
- Pecorino Romano cheese
Yields: Serves 4
Place chicken stock and saffron threads in a small pot. Bring to a simmer to infuse and concentrate flavor.
Meanwhile, peel half the skin off the eggplant. Dice very finely into 1/8-inch pieces. Sprinkle with salt and reserve.
Place a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta.
Heat EVOO, 3 turns of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat. Add pork and lightly brown while finely crumbling it into tiny bits. Season with fennel, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, thyme and a little chili pepper.
Squeeze any liquid from the eggplant then stir it into the pork. Cook about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently until eggplant is tender. Deglaze with white wine, stir a minute then add reduced saffon-infused stock – about 1 cup. Stir in cream and simmer over low heat while pasta cooks.
Cook pasta to al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup starchy cooking liquid, then drain and toss the pasta with the sauce, adding liquid as necessary to combine. Toss 1-2 minutes.
Serve in shallow bowls topped with freshly grated Pecorino and a bit more thyme for garnish.
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