Once a month, I am graced with the wonderfulness of a great mail day. No, it is not that rare day without bills (although that is very nice), and no it is not due to a special letter from a long time pen-pal (I would first need to find that pal); no, it’s the day when my favorite cooking magazines arrive, a day that truly is like Christmas morning. From the moment I open that little gray door that keeps our treasures locked inside, I can see them folded up neatly and just waiting for my attention. On the way up the stairs, I stare intently at the insanely detailed photos that grace the covers, and hungrily read every headline, waiting until I am safely in our condo before pouring over every page. Last month was no different, my magazines arrived and I was hooked until they had been read cover to cover.
Half way through Bon Appetit, I discovered a full spread called “Melting Pots.” Eight pages, of rich, comfort food all consisting of only baked pastas. I wanted to try each and every recipe, immediately, but one in particular stood out as the perfect no meat on Fridays lenten meal: Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch. So instead of turning to eggs or fish on Friday, I went all out with my latest most favorite pasta dish.
Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch (adapted from Bon Appetit):
First, begin by preparing all of your ingredients. Wash and chopped 2 medium sized eggplants, 2 yellow bell peppers, and 2 cups of cherry tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place all of the chopped vegetables on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a little basil and oregano. Bake until the vegetables are roasted and soft.
While the vegetables are roasting, combine 2/3 cup of basil, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of pine nuts, and a dash of salt in a processor and blend.
In a large bowl, add 1 large can of whole tomatoes with their juice, 8 oz of heavy whipping cream, and an additional cup of basil. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. Set aside until later.
Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a boil. Add in 1 pound of rigatoni and cook until al dente. Once cooked, drain and pour pasta into a large baking pan.
Add the roasted vegetables, the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese to the pasta. Stir until combined.
Chop up some fresh mozzarella cheese to add on top of the pasta and pretend to not see when your husband sneaks a few pieces.
Sprinkle the pasta with your basil and pine nut mixture as well as the fresh mozzarella.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
There are still 4 meatless Fridays (tomorrow being one!) left in this lenten season. So, if you are looking for something amazing to spice up your Friday night, this Bon Appetit recipe is the one to use. It is just that good and unlike the regular, old pasta dishes most of us so often turn to. The basil and pine nut mixture makes this whole dish stand out in a class of its own, so much so that I almost felt guilty for enjoying my meatless Friday so much.
So enjoy, on a Friday in lent or any other day of the year. And have no fear, the next great mail day should be coming soon.