Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Baked rigatoni with eggplant, chard and mushrooms

Hey, look! I cooked something!

It's been over a month since I cooked anything (Christmas Day, to be exact). In that time, I've been eating a lot of other people's cooking and road food. Also some nice meals out, but probably too many.

To avoid spending unnecessary money on both road food and eating out, I wanted to get my kitchen operational as quickly as possible. Step 1: unpack. Step 2: stock the pantry. I started at Costco, and finished with a couple of trips to local grocery chains. I've discovered that some things are weirdly cheap (eggs are $1 a dozen, eggplants are $1 each) and some things are weirdly expensive (booze has a 35% tax! Can you believe it?).

The pantry is about 85% there, but it's enough to get started. First I made chili with ground pork, then I made a big batch of tomato sauce, then I made some fudge, and now I'm making bread.

For dinner last night, I made baked rigatoni with eggplant, chard, and mushrooms. It's a variation on a theme, but a delicious one.

1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped (I used one large shallot)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, quartered
1 bunch chard, loosely chopped
3-4 cups tomato sauce
Leaves from 1 small bunch basil
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound fresh mozzarella
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat some olive oil in a skillet until hot. Add the eggplant pieces in one comfortable layer (you may need to do more than one batch) and cook until golden brown. Set aside in a large bowl. Cook the mushrooms next in the same skillet. Add to the eggplant. Saute the onion and garlic next, and add that to the eggplant. Cook the chard just long enough so that it's wilted, and add that to the eggplant as well.

Cook the rigatoni until still slightly firm. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add both to the eggplant, along with the tomato sauce, basil and any seasonings,  and the mozzarella. Mix well, and pour into a large casserole dish. Top with parmesan and pepper, and bake at 450 until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

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