Roasted Vegetable (eggplant, zucchini, mushroom) and Herbed Goat Cheese Pasta
Alright, yes, I know. This recipe has all the flavours of the 1990s. But I was a young bride in the 90s and I started making this dish then. It’s too good to give up even though the trifecta of goat cheese, zucchini and eggplant is so last century. (At least I stopped adding sundried tomatoes. Then I’d have to pull out my discman).
I think I should note here that this pasta is good hot or cold. You can serve right away or make it ahead. It only takes about 30 minutes to make and people will think you are very chef-like.
Before I get started into the recipe, I want to talk about eggplant. This shade vegetable is a tricky beast. It’s a sponge and will greedily soak up whatever oil or liquid you pour over it. It also doesn’t always taste that great, and if it’s not cooked properly, tastes just awful – all hard and wood-like. Sometimes it’s how you’ve chosen the eggplant and sometimes it’s how you’ve cooked it.
How to choose an eggplant:
- If you’re a newbie, try to find Sicilian eggplants. They are the big round light purple ones. They’re easier to cook, are milder in taste, less bitter, and have less seeds. Choose one that feels firm to the touch, is mostly purple, and has evenly distributed weight.
- If you’re using a traditional dark purple eggplant, find one that has smooth unblemished skin. It should also feel light. If it’s heavy it will have lots of seeds which will make it bitter. I don’t particularly care for those seeds either.
- If you’re making stirfry or vegetable skewers, look for the chinese eggplants. They are light purple like Sicilian, but are long and skinny. Again, smooth unblemished skin and firm means they’re fresh and good.
After much experimentation, I have come up with a cooking process that works. It’s three simple tips:
- Choose the right eggplant for your dish. If you can’t find the right one, or you can’t get a good one, make something else. I don’t find that the popular salting method does anything except add another step. All those seeds are yucky, plain and simple.
- Always cook the eggplant a bit before adding the other vegetables: Eggplant, like carrots, takes longer to cook. Eggplant, unlike carrots, tastes gross uncooked. This vegetable should be very soft and almost melty when it’s been done well. That’s how it gets a yummy smoky flavour.
- Season & marinate the eggplant on it’s own. I always give it it’s own splash of oil and seasoning as it’s a hog.
Ok so now that we have the eggplant issue out of the way, here’s how to make the most delicious vegetarian pasta that everyone will love.
Pasta with roasted vegetables, goat cheese and tomatoes
What You’ll Need:
One large eggplant (sicilian or regular), cut into one inch cubes. (No need to peel as the peel helps the eggplant hold it’s shape and also peeling is for suckers who like extra work)
2 medium zucchinis, cut into medium chunks (cut zucchini lengthwise in half then those pieces in half too. Stack them, and then slice. Voila)
1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
4 large cloves garlic, smashed and cut in large chunks
1/4 cup (1 pkg) herbed goat cheese
1 28 oz can of Italian tomatoes
Olive Oil for roasting the vegetables
Salt & pepper to taste
1 500 g package of short cut pasta shapes (large ones like ziti work great)
Parmesan cheese & parmesan shavings, fresh basil for garnish
What You’ll Do:
Prepare a roasting pan with tinfoil sprayed with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Eggplant, garlic, zucchini and mushrooms ready for roasting
Place eggplant in a mixing bowl. Pour about 2 tbsp of olive oil over top and quickly mix before it all gets absorbed. Season with salt & pepper. Place in roasting pan with the garlic, and cook in oven for about 10-15 minutes until the eggplant starts to soften and get sorta brown and carmelized when you stir it. (Step 1)
In the meantime, oil up and season the zucchini and mushrooms (obviously in the same bowl. Who needs extra dishes?). When it’s time, add them to the eggplant pan and mix to combine. Place back in the oven and cook about 15 minute until veggies are nice and soft. (Step 2)
While the vegetables are working, you can cook the pasta according to the package directions. When it’s done, drain well. If you’ve timed it properly, your roasted vegetables should be ready at the same time.
Turn the heat down to low and place the pasta pot back on the burner. Dump the can of tomatoes into it. Using a knife, the back of a spoon, or your hands, break up the whole tomatoes. Throw all the goat cheese in (you can break it up into chunks so it melts faster). Turn up the heat to medium, and give that mixture a stir. Dump the pasta back in, and stir. Dump the roasted vegetables in, and mix everything together.
The goat cheese and tomatoes with the pasta and ready for the roasted vegetables
Can you see it? The creamy tomato sauce that you actually didn’t make?
You can serve right away or put in a casserole dish and bake al forno. Top with sprinkled parmigiano reggiano and some parmesan shavings.
So good, you know it. And another VERY impressive meal in about 30 minutes.