Smoky Summer Spaghetti

Hey, this is my new blog! I kicked the tyres and had a pretty thorough poke around under the bonnet and so far it seems like a good enough place for me to bang on about cooking. I've already done the bare minimum, posting old recipes, writing about myself(!), doctoring up a recipe page, all the usual stuff, so please take a look around and enjoy my new surrounds.

 But first, let me say hellooooo! It's been ages and while I'd like to say it's because I've been doing something important/productive, I've really just been a spectacularly lazy. It's true. I did manage to see and love Django Unchained and a few choice bands. I also poured a few beers at my Mum's pub, but that's about it. It feels super rad to be home.
One thing that has been especially good about being home is being able to check out new joints that have opened up while I was in Africa. My favorite might be Bar Paradiso, just off Smith St, Collingwood, not too far from my new house and always there for you on a late week/weekend morning when you need eggs and arancini after a night out.

Recently, I tried out their smoked up version of pasta alla norma, the Sicilian eggplant, ricotta and tomato pasta dish that was already my favourite. But at Bar Paradiso, they've made it even more my favorite; by adding smoky eggplant, they've made it tempting fusion of babaganoush and pasta alla norma. Genius. I've been making a home spun version for dinner and really enjoying it. It's sooo good and easy, you don't even have to salt and fry the eggplant, because you smoke and roast it, so it goes all soft and melts into a tangy tomato sauce. Sometimes I add in some sweet, milky lumps of buffalo mozzarella. Don't hold back on the basil and because two types of cheese are better than one, the parmesan either. I hope your year is off to a mind blowing start. Catch you soon.

Smoky Summer Spaghetti

1 large eggplant
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste with salt
5 large ripe peeled tomatoes, or 1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes
Salt and pepper
A dash of red wine vinegar
A handful of picked basil leaves
1/2 a cup of grated Parmesan, plus extra for finishing
Fresh mozzarella, optional

Preheat the oven to 200C. Using a fork, make several holes in the eggplant all over. Turn a gas burner to high and cook the eggplant evenly all over, so that the skin goes wrinkly. After five to seven minutes, remove from the heat, slice in half, season with one tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. You want the eggplant super squishy.
Next make the sauce by gently sauteing the onion over low-medium heat for around ten minutes, season with a big pinch of salt half way through cook time. When the onions are really soft, add the garlic and stir for a minute while it cooks. Add the peeled tomatoes next and a half a cup of water. Turn up the heat to medium, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Check the tomatoes, if you can, mash them with a potato masher or wooden spoon. If you can't just cook them a while longer.
Season and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until you have a thick, smooth sauce. Get the eggplant out of the oven. Peel it, cut off the green tops and set aside.
When the sauce is good and smooth, add a dash of red wine vinegar and check the seasoning. Chop the eggplant into pieces and mash through the tomato sauce. Let it bubble away for the flavours to combine for around 5 minutes.
Cook the pasta and when it's done, stir through the sauce. Add the basil, mozzarella if you're using it, and Parmesan. Stir really well. Serve with extra parmesan on the side.

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