Eggplant Ricotta Fettuccine

 
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Every year my dad plants a veggie garden in our backyard. Normally there is a ton of zucchini and plenty of tomatoes, but for some reason last year we had an unusually large amount of eggplant. It felt like every time we went to check on the garden another eggplant had turned a deep purple and was perfectly firm, but not hard, and ready to be plucked off of the plant and brought inside. 

We had eggplant piling up in a dish on the kitchen counter. Deep wrinkles in the skin of the less recently picked ones gave away their age, yet we didn't know what to do with all of it but give it away.

I hate food waste with a passion. It's ingrained in me by my mom who would hate it if we didn't finish what was on our plates at dinner and refused to buy something from the store unless we promised to eat every last bite of whatever if was. So naturally I had to come up with a use for our surplus, and here we are.

 

Eggplant Ricotta Fettuccine

4-5 servings

1 medium eggplant

1 cup slivered almonds

1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup diced onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes

3-4 basil leaves

1 package fettuccine

 

For the ricotta: soak almonds in boiling water for one hour. Reserve 1/3 cup of soaking liquid, then drain the almonds. In a food processor, pulse the almonds with the 1/4 cup of liquid, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp of salt and a pinch of pepper until the mixture resembles ricotta and is fairly smooth, add more of the soaking liquid if necessary.

Steam eggplant over boiling water until tender - first remove the stem and halve the eggplant, then make slits into the flesh to allow the steam to permeate the veggie. Boil water in a large pot and place a round bottomed colander over (but not touching) the water, then place the eggplant in the colander, flesh side down and cover with a lid to trap the steam. Let steam for 20 minutes or so or until tender - the flesh should easily tear away from the skin.

Make the sauce: in a large saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil. Once hot, add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or so until caramelized. Stir in the tomato paste to evenly coat the onions and garlic, then add the canned tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon so that no large chunks remain. Add basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste. 

Tear steamed eggplant into thin strips and add to tomato sauce. 

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta to sauce, adding cooking liquid as necessary to thin out sauce.

Top with dollops of ricotta and ground pine nuts.

 

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