â€œNow that I am retired, I have more time to cook. My husband and I love to travel, and this dish was inspired by a trip to Italy. Pancetta is Italian bacon and comes in a sausagelike roll; it lends a salty bite to the marinara.â€� —Glenda Mann, Longview, TX
6 cups (1/2-inch) cubed eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 ounce pancetta, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
16 ounces uncooked penne (tube-shaped pasta)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1 (3-inch) piece French bread baguette (2 ounces)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
How to Make It
Arrange eggplant on several layers of heavy-duty paper towels. Sprinkle eggplant with 1 teaspoon kosher salt; let stand 15 minutes. Pat dry with additional paper towels.
Preheat oven to 450°.
Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet; cool.
Cook pancetta in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Add onion, oil, and garlic to pan; cook 6 minutes or until onion is lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add wine to pan; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in basil, oregano, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; partially cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in eggplant.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Add pasta and reserved 1/4 cup cooking water to tomato mixture; stir well. Spoon pasta mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with fontina.
Place baguette in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 1/2 cups. Add Parmesan to processor; pulse 5 times. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over fontina.
Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.
Wine note: With an American take on an Italian dish, why not try an American take on a red Italian wine, like Tamás Estates Sangiovese 2005 ($14), an American wine made from the same grape as Italian Chianti. With its medium body and plentiful acidity, sangiovese is a classic choice with all tomato dishes, and offers tart cherry and sweet vanilla flavors that nicely balance each other. —Jeffery Lindenmuth