Eggplant stands in for the ground beef in this substantial vegetarian main dish. Be sure to serve it with plenty of grated cheese on the side.
1 medium eggplant
1 bay leaf1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary, oregano, or both
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces spaghetti
2 garlic cloves, minced
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, pulsed a few times in a food processor or blender
- Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut eggplant into ½-inch dice, toss with salt in a large mixing bowl, and transfer to a colander. Place bowl underneath to drain, and nest a smaller bowl inside the colander pressing down on the eggplant cubes. Put something heavy inside the bowl to weight it (like a container of salt or can of tomatoes.) Let eggplant drain for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until tender but not brown, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes, then uncover pan and simmer 5 minutes more. Stir in herbs, season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat; discard bay leaf.
- Remove eggplant cubes from colander and spread between two double layers of paper towels, pressing down to dry them. Transfer to a bowl and toss with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Spread in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet; roast for 10 minutes, then increase oven temperature to 475 degrees, gently stir, and continue baking until eggplant cubes are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes more.
- Stir roasted eggplant to the pot containing the tomato sauce and gently reheat while pasta cooks. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, drain well and toss with eggplant sauce. Top with grated cheese and serve immediately.