I first had Pasta Melanzane at a wonderful restaurant near my home in Wiesbaden, Germany. We were always looking for the best Italian restaurant we could find, and when we found Marcello’s, we stopped looking. No matter what we ate there, the food was delicious. Melanzane, by the way, means eggplant, or aubergine. I always use that word because a lot of people think they don’t like eggplant.
I tried hard to duplicate Marcello’s Pasta Melanzane, but the more I added, the weirder it would get. In the end, my very best results came from keeping things simple and fresh:
1 fairly large eggplant, cut into fingers about 1/2 inch, like french fries
6 – 10 cloves of garlic, peeled, chopped
2 packets / small cans tomato paste
1 Tablespoon (1 large glop) finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
(red pepper flakes – optional)
water to thin
Put the eggplant fingers in a colander (bowl shaped strainer) and sprinkle with salt. Leave half an hour, rinse with water and dry with paper towels. You do this because sometimes eggplant can be bitter, and this takes away the bitterness.
Put some olive oil – maybe 2 Tablespoons – in a deep frying pan and heat, add chopped garlic and heat until garlic is softened. If you are using red pepper flakes, add those in now, too, and let them soften with the garlic.
Add the eggplant fingers, turn the heat way down, add a little more olive oil and cook slowly until the eggplant is also softened all the way through.
Meanwhile, mix the tomato paste, chopped sun dried tomato pieces, and some water into sauce.
(If you are in a place where you can legally use red wine, you can use a cup or so in place of some of the water. I have also used pomegranate juice, but it is not quite the same.)
Add the sauce to the eggplant, put on a spatter guard (You can find them at the Sultan Center and sometimes in the souks – they are a round screen with a handle that keeps sauce from splashing all over your stove) and turn the gas down to the very lowest it will go.
Set the timer for 30 minutes, and go about your business. Keep checking every 30 minutes, give it a stir, add a little more liquid if it needs it, give it a taste.
When it is ready, turn the burner off. This sauce just gets better and better as it mellows.
When it is time to serve dinner, boil a pot of pasta and re-heat the melanzane sauce at the same time. Because it is a strong sauce, you can use strong pastas, like penne, to serve it over.