I've been dying to make this recipe since I saw it and finally last night I had the perfect excuse...a small dinner party for my daughter's friends after the office scavenger hunt to raise money for St. Jude's Children Hospital. If you need to raise money for a worthwhile cause, this is at the top of my list.
Founded in 1962 by entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude's finds cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. It is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance.
If you are serving dinner to a group of sweaty and tired young people who have spent their sacred Saturday looking for stuff in downtown Atlanta, it better be substantial and filling. Be prepared for seconds and thirds ...and an early exit.
This pasta recipe was everything I was hoping for and more and it fit the occasion to a tee. The only change I made was using crushed or chopped tomatoes and stirring the cream in and adding finely diced basil and garlic. I'll do anything to cut down on dirty bowls. Also make sure you use a good brand of tomatoes like Pomi or Cento.
At the end I sprinkled the pine nut topping first and then the mozzarella which made for a nice golden crust on top. I don't know if this made a difference but it worked!
This is the perfect main dish for a small and very casual dinner party, particularly if the guests are young adults; or it can be served as part of a buffet on another informal occasion.
•Nonstick vegetable oil spray
•1 unpeeled large eggplant (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
•2 medium yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch squares
•2 cups grape tomatoes
•3 large garlic cloves, divided
•1/3 cup olive oil
•2 cups (firmly packed) fresh basil leaves, divided
•1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
•1/4 cup pine nuts
•1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
•1 cup heavy whipping cream
•1 pound rigatoni
•1 pound whole-milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (i used shredded)
•Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray; add eggplant and peppers. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise; add to sheet. Using garlic press, squeeze 1 garlic clove onto vegetables. Drizzle vegetables with oil; toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender, stirring often, 35 to 45 minutes.
•Combine 2/3 cup basil, 1/2 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and 1 garlic clove in mini processor. Blend until crumbly. Season topping with salt.
•Blend tomatoes with juice, cream, 1 1/3 cups basil, and 1 garlic clove in processor until smooth. Season sauce with salt and pepper.*
•Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally; drain. Return to pot. Toss with vegetables, sauce, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Transfer to 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella and pine nut topping.
•Bake pasta until heated through, 25 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.
Adapted from Bon Appetit