I got the idea for this recipe from Jack Monroe’s marvellous second cookbook A Year in 100 Recipes. In her ‘smoky aubergine, tomato and red lentil pasta sauce’, Jack recommends cooking the aubergine whole for around 30 minutes, before scraping out the soft insides and adding them to the sauce. The result is soft, gooey and flavoursome aubergine.
Like Jack, I also like to use fresh tomatoes rather than tinned (provided I’m not in a rush), as this gives the sauce a fresher, deeper flavour. Skinning tomatoes is a little fiddly, but the overall result is well worth it, I promise. There is enough here to feed around 4 people, or 2 people plus leftovers for lunch the next day. If cooking for kids, you could make the sauce, then blend it all up, disguising the presence of any vegetables other than the humble, child-friendly tomato.
- 3 large cloves garlic
- Tomatoes (I used 9 medium sized salad tomatoes)
- Tomato puree
- Olive oil
- Zest half a lemon (optional)
- 1 aubergine
- 1 red pepper
- Basil (dried or fresh)
- Salt & pepper for seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 200c/ gas mark 6. Place the aubergine and pepper onto a foiled baking tray, then place into the oven to dry roast for 30 minutes. Use tongs to turn the vegetables once or twice during this time.
- Boil the kettle and place the tomatoes in a large bowl or pan. While the kettle is boiling, finely chop the garlic.
- Pour the boiled water over the tomatoes, stab each tomato with a knife, and leave for around 2 minutes.
- Carefully remove a tomato from the water and place on a chopping board. Staring where you made an initial cut, continue slicing through the skin, round the tomato. If the skin has been softened enough, you will be able to peel it off with relative ease. If it refuses to budge, place it back in the water for a couple more minutes. If you are still unsure, click here for a video demonstration from BBC Good Food.
- Remove the skins from all of the tomatoes then dice them up, discarding the hard cores.
- Heat the olive oil (about 2 tbsp) in a medium-large pan, then add the garlic and gently sizzle on a low heat for around 3 minutes, stirring continuously.
- Add the diced up tomatoes to the garlic and stir well. Squeeze in a dollop of tomato puree, and add 1 tsp dried basil (or a handful of fresh), as well as salt and pepper. Grate in the zest of half a lemon (I stated this as optional in the ingredients list as I love the addition of lemon, but my boyfriend hates it). Leave the sauce to bubble gently on a low heat for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.
- When the aubergine and pepper are done, remove from the oven, and place on a chopping board. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes. The skin should be slightly charred, and the vegetables soft.
- Starting with the pepper, dice it up, discarding the core and stem, then add to the sauce. The flesh of the pepper should be soft and slippery – it should smell delicious too.
- Next run a knife down the length of the aubergine. It may make the rather satisfying noise of a deflating balloon and fall gently in on itself. Use a spoon to scoop out the insides and add to the pasta sauce.
- Once the sauce has reduced to your liking, and the pepper and aubergine are heated through, cook your pasta and assemble your dish – not forgetting a generous helping of parmesan, of course.