Our potted grape tomato plant was teeming with ripe fruit and we wanted to use them in a more unique way than just adding to salads. The answer? My concoction Burst Grape Tomatoes with Eggplant and Whole Wheat Linguine. In the past, I’ve successfully roasted plum and heirloom varieties and thought the same could be done with this garden bonanza of little guys. If you don’t have any of your own, small tomatoes can now be found in any supermarket throughout the year—you could even buy different colors. Nothing equals fresh local tomatoes, right?
You should leave all tomatoes out at room temperature, but store-bought fruit especially benefit from a few days of ripening to deepen their flavor and bring out their sweetness. Keep in mind, these roasted tomatoes can be kept at room temperature for several hours, or for a day or two in advance and refrigerated until needed, which is what I did. Additionally, the eggplant slices can be salted in advance and stored in a paper towel lined lock-n-lock up to one day ahead. Both great time savers when it’s time to throw the meal together.
The afternoon I planned on making this for dinner, I fell into a conversation with one of my pool pals regarding the gender of eggplants. She told me there are both male and female types, which I had never heard of before so I had to do some investigation. What I found out was that eggplants do not have a gender, but they are endowed with cross-pollinating male and female flowers on each plant. Even though we may think of the eggplant as a vegetable, like the tomato, it is classified as a fruit. Fruit or veggie, eggplants are not male or female.
Two types of eggplant may develop on one plant, and that is likely the reason the myth of gender got started. One type has a roundish dimpled area at the blossom end, and the other type has a more oval-shaped dimpled area. The oval-dimpled eggplants are said to have more seeds and be less meaty than the roundish dimpled eggplants—that explanation was another detail forthcoming from my pool pal.
Now that the controversy is cleared up, the (politically correct “fluid” 🙂 ) eggplants do love hot weather and grow well where more tender, leafy vegetables may wilt. They like growing conditions similar to tomatoes; and both are from the same nightshade family of plants. So, in late August, they make a perfect pairing for the Burst Grape Tomatoes with Eggplant and Whole Wheat Linguine.
Gilbert’s Caprese Chicken Sausage was a great match for this recipe because they contain basil, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella. I liked the fact that they contain no artificial ingredients, are minimally processed and the chickens are raised without antibiotics—and they taste great to boot. While shopping at Costco recently they were handing out samples, and after one bite, we snatched a package of 16 fully cooked, individually wrapped links.
Back to what incentivized this recipe in the first place. The roasted tomatoes are soooo friggin’ good, you could eat them alone with a spoon! And if you’re really in a hurry, forget all of the extras and just toss the roasted tomatoes with a cooked pasta of choice, a drizzle of really good EVOO, sprinkle in some chopped fresh basil and grated parm and call it a day. But I have to be honest, this dish was definitely “bursting” with flavor with all of the other ingredients. Hubby was very impressed!
Burst Grape Tomatoes with Eggplant and Whole Wheat Linguine
- 8-10 cups grape tomatoes (about 100 tomatoes)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- 2 small eggplant, trimmed, cut into 1/4″ rounds
- 4 links (10 ounces) chicken sausages such as Gilbert’s Caprese, cut in 1/2″ diagonal slices
- 1 Tbsp. roasted garlic, or 3 garlic cloves, pressed
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil, more garnish
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 pound whole wheat linguine, cooked
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. herbed pesto (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, more for garnish
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the grape tomatoes and put them, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and the sugar in a large bowl and toss to coat the tomatoes well.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and pour the tomatoes onto the baking sheet.
- Place them in the oven, and roast for 35 minutes, or until they collapse, or burst, and their skins begin to char.
- Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly. Carefully lift the paper and pour the tomatoes and all their roasting juices back into the bowl.
- Meanwhile, slice the eggplant, place on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet, salt one side and let sit 20 minutes, turn the slices and repeat. Wick away any extra moisture with paper towels. Cut down to 3/4″ cubes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat for the pasta and cook according to directions for al dente.
- Heat another 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the roasted garlic and cubed eggplant and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the final tablespoon of olive oil and place the sausage slices in with the eggplant, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the white wine to deglaze the pan using a wooden spatula to loosen the brown bits, about 1 minute.
- Add the roasted tomatoes with their juices. Cover the pan to retain the moisture.
- Remove and reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- Add the pasta, about 1 tablespoon of the reserved cooking water, and the chopped basil to the tomato sauce. Stir and toss to thoroughly coat the spaghetti.
- Add a tablespoon or so of the remaining pasta water if the sauce is too dry or thick; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the grated parm (and herbed pesto if using) and gently toss to coat.
- Turn the pasta into a serving bowl or individual bowls and pass the cheese, if using, at the table.