Baking Sheet Spaghetti with Roasted Peppers & Eggplant
Did you catch this Bittman article? It’s about how, when cooking at home, you can make a trade off between energy and time. Slow-cooked dishes often don’t demand much work–the garlic cloves soften on their own, no need for chopping–but you have to start early and stay around to check on them. Fast-to-make dinners require less overall time, but the pace of cooking is furious and the action nonstop: You can’t step away from the stove for a minute. My reaction to all this was: yes, what an observation! And how true that we consider all cooking time the same, when we definitely shouldn’t.
The fast and furious stuff would seem to mean stir-frying and pan-frying, poaching and blanching, quick-cooking techniques that nonetheless produce good flavor, though requiring your full attention. It does. But in fact, the single most time-consuming act of quick cooking is the chopping, I think. You know this if you’ve ever made fried rice or beef and broccoli. That chicken and string bean dish cooked up ridiculously fast, sure–but after 40 minutes of mincing.
Enter a new technique. The roasting pan method of prep work. Here, instead of chopping to create more surface area and thus flavor when an ingredient like garlic or onion is cooked, we use high heat in the oven to turn big pieces of pepper, tomato, garlic, and onion into a savory sauce–quick. The roasting pan sauce destroys chopping’s reign over good fast cooking, without adding the normal reciprocal: tons of time.
Here, once the veggies have blistered and even charred, they go into the blender where a burrrr and a whizz emulsify the concoction into a tasty topping for pasta. You could stop there: mix pasta and sauce and you’ve got dinner!
But I did a little more. Back when the sauce veggies were roasting, I also baked slices of eggplant, and those went into a casserole pan, along with the sauce and morsels of mozz. Tossed together, this–pasta, peppers, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, and gooey cheese–becomes a better baked pasta, one that’s vegetarian and healthful, one that doesn’t take forever to cook or to prep.
Baking Sheet Spaghetti with Roasted Garlic, Peppers & Eggplant
1 eggplant, cut into half moons
2 red peppers, cut into 4 pieces each
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
5 medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound spaghetti, cooked 2 min short of al dente
1/3 pound mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
In a large bowl, combine the eggplant with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few pinches of salt. Toss, then arrange on a baking sheet in one layer.
Add the peppers, onion, garlic, and tomatoes to the bowl and add another tablespoon or 2 of olive oil. Spread the veggies on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt.
Roast both sheets for 30 minutes, until the eggplant is browned and the other veggies are softened and blistered. Add the peppers, onion, and tomatoes to a blender. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and add the cloves to the blender too. Add the smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon salt and blend on high until smooth.
While the veggies are cooking, salt the boiling water and cook the spaghetti until 2 minutes shy of al dente (check the package). Drain well when done and set aside.
Pour the sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Scatter the eggplant and the mozzarella across the surface. Scoop all the spaghetti on top. Toss well, and taste for salt, adding more if needed. Scatter the breadcrumbs on top, and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
Bake in the 400°F oven for 15 minutes, until the top is crispy. Immediately sprinkle with parm. Rest for 5 minutes, then serve.
**This post is part of Food Network’s fall fest. The theme is roasted garlic. See what other bloggers and foodies made by clicking the links below:**
The Lemon Bowl: Crispy Garlic Baked Chicken Breasts
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Roasted Garlic Tomato Pasta Sauce
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Red Swiss Chard with Roasted Garlic & Balsamic
Red or Green: Pasta Puttanesca with Roasted Garlic
Taste with the Eyes: Crusted Ahi with Roasted Garlic Tahini
Dishing With Divya: Baked Salmon with Garlic and Herbs
Virtually Homemade: Roasted Broccoli and Garlic with Feta Cheese
The Cultural Dish: Roasted Garlic Infused Olive Oil
Domesticate Me: Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic, Goat Cheese and Pepitas
The Mom 100: Roasted Garlic and Tomato Bread
Devour: Roasted Garlic Recipes Worth Worshipping
FN Dish: 10 Excuses to Eat Roasted Garlic