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LifestyleColumnistsLauren Chattman

Who’s Cooking: Pat Hintz makes pasta with eggplant ragout

Pat Hintz plays around with the ingredients for

Pat Hintz plays around with the ingredients for her eggplant ragout. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Pat Hintz, an assistant to a financial planner, lives in Albertson with her husband and two children.

How did you get into cooking?

My biggest inspiration is my mom. Even though I didn’t really pay attention to how she made dishes, they were always delicious and unique. Even today, people in her neighborhood know about and love her cooking. Coming from northern Italy, her take on Italian food was different.

When I first got married, I didn’t know too much and the microwave was the big thing. But when my kids got a little older, I got a Lidia Bastianich cookbook. There was a lot that reminded me of what my mother made. The recipes didn’t seem so hard. The more I cooked, the more I wanted to cook. I always wanted to have a big Sunday dinner for whoever was around, and that’s something I continue to do. We have wine with dinner. Conversation flows. That’s when we really talk with our kids about whatever’s going on with them.

What are your Sunday specialties?

I like anything that takes a few hours to cook. Bolognese sauce that sits on the stove for 3 or 4 hours, braised meats that take a really long time.

Where does this recipe come from?

This one was actually a spin on a Rachael Ray recipe that I found a long time ago. The basic recipe was eggplant and linguine. I started playing around with it. Everyone likes mushrooms, so I put some in. If you have vegetables in the refrigerator at the end of the week, you could use them. You can change up the recipe by adding sliced 1⁄2 rounds of zucchini with the mushrooms or adding 1 cup of fresh or frozen corn kernels along with the eggplant. Cavatappi pasta also works well.

 

Serving suggestions?

On a weeknight I’ll serve it with a nice piece of Italian bread and a simple salad of romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, with a little feta cheese on top.

 

Any shortcuts?

If you don’t have time during a weeknight to roast the eggplant, you can always do this step in advance and save it for the night you want to use it. I usually roast the eggplant the night before while I’m cleaning up after dinner and use it for the next night’s supper. Just take it out while you begin the sauce so it’s close to room temperature.

PASTA WITH EGGPLANT RAGOUT

2 small eggplants (about 2 pounds)

Salt

14 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 (14 12-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound mezzi rigatoni pasta

12 cup reserved pasta water

Ground black pepper

13 cup chopped fresh basil

Grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the eggplants all over with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and cook until very soft, about 1 hour, depending on size of the eggplants. Let cool slightly, then cut each eggplant in half and scoop the insides into a bowl, discarding the skin. Chop up the eggplant.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute or so — do not let it get too brown. Add the mushrooms and oregano and cook until the mushrooms release their moisture and start to caramelize (2 to 3 minutes). Add the diced tomatoes and their juice. Cook until the liquid has reduced, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. In the meantime, add the pasta to a large pot of salted boiling water and cook until al dente, reserving 1⁄2 cup of the pasta water.

4. While the pasta is cooking, stir the chopped eggplant into the tomato- mushroom mixture in the skillet. Cook 5 minutes longer. Add pasta water as needed to loosen up the sauce to your liking. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and basil to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve with the grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for sprinkling on top. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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