Celebrate the last haul of summer bounty with this quick and simple sauce of nightshades, walnuts, and meatballs. Eggplant and tomato melt together with umami-packed anchovy paste and olive tapenade, while garlicky walnuts and meatballs add crunch and substance. Pre-cooked chicken meatballs were used here, but any flavorful meatball will do.
1 lb. Basil Garlic Fettuccine
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium eggplant, diced and purged*
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 t. anchovy paste
1/2 t. green olive tapenade
1/4 c. walnuts, roughly chopped
Pinch red pepper flake
1/4 - 1/3 c. white wine
8-10 Italian style chicken meatballs
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Salt & Pepper, to taste
*Toss diced eggplant generously with salt and place in a colander over the sink for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. This draws the liquid out and results in a better texture when cooking. When ready to make sauce, rinse eggplant under water and pat dry.
1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, adding enough olive or vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add eggplant; occasionally stir and cook until eggplant is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes, adding more oil if eggplant sticks and pan is looking dry.
3. Meanwhile, heat a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Add chopped walnuts, 1 garlic clove, and a pinch of red pepper flake. Cook until fragrant and toasty, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
4. When eggplant is golden, add remaining garlic, tomatoes, anchovy paste, and green olive tapenade. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often. Deglaze with white wine, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add meatballs to pan and cook until heated through.
5. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain, reserving at least 1/2 c. pasta water, and add cooked pasta to sauté pan, along with half of the toasted walnuts, Parmesan, and a ladle of pasta water. Toss and season to taste, adding more pasta water as needed. Serve with meatballs and a garnish of remaining walnuts and Parmesan.