It would be seriously amazing if I could just once pick a recipe for which I didn’t have to substitute ingredients because I live in the middle of nowhere. Of course, it isn’t the middle of nowhere’s fault. I should totally read the recipe before planning to cook it. This would leave me with nothing but chuck roast and mashed potatoes but I digress.
This recipe for tagliatelle with eggplant and meatballs appeared in none other than InStyle forever ago. Magazine junky that I am, I tore it out to make later. Later being the key word here. Better late than never, I say, because this was quite good and simple. If you haven’t heard of Lidia Bastianich, who provided this recipe to InStyle, look her up. She’s a modern day Marcella. A word of warning: this recipe makes A LOT of pasta and sauce. We were three adults and two (hungry) little people for dinner and didn’t crack half of this dish. You’ve been warned. Plan for leftovers.
The meatballs are a very simple mixture of beef, onion, fresh parsley, parmesan, egg, and bread crumbs. The sauce is also simple - crushed tomatoes (so important here to buy good tomatoes – try San Marzano if your grocery store didn’t quit carrying them like mine did or Pomi), garlic, eggplant, and a bit of seasoning with more parmesan and fresh basil thrown in at the last minute. I had trouble finding tagliatelle, and in the end did not have a full pound, so for the kids substituted veggie spirals. Théa insisted on being served the tagliatelle instead. She knows something about pasta, that kid. In a pinch, you could try fettuccine, but I think the wider noodle is really better with the chunky sauce.
I could not find Italian eggplant either, so substituted regular eggplant. I used about three quarters of a medium eggplant cut to a ½” dice. It is really important when adding the eggplant to stir constantly as directed because the eggplant will absorb all of the pan’s oil and stick like nobody’s business. Trust me. Not a good result. After ten minutes of stirring, your eggplant will shrink quite a bit, so don’t worry about having too much when you start. I used a small Dutch oven instead of a straight-sided skillet because I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t have enough room in the pot. This was a good move.
The recipe says that the sauce is ready after the meatballs have cooked for 25 or so minutes. Far be it for me to correct anything that Lidia says about Italian cooking, but I’m going to anyway. If you have the time, let your sauce cook a bit longer. The flavors really seemed to improve with the added time. Had I not started mine at 5:30, I would have let it cook even longer. And don’t forget to add salt and pepper.
Overall, this was a delicious meal that I would certainly make again. Oh, yeah. And my almost four year-old daughter made the salad and set the table. I am living right, people. Living right.