Capers, which are so often used as a garnish or by the tablespoonful for salads, is one of the main ingredients in this sauce. It pairs well with the eggplant. Along with the addition of anchovies, this sauce attains a complexity of flavor which belies the ease of preparation. Roasting the eggplant first will create an even deeper level of flavor, and I recommend the procedure, but if time is of the essence, just sauté diced eggplant. There’s leeway in the amount of anchovies here; if you’re not an anchovy fan, use the lesser amount, but do keep it in, it balances the sauce. Before adding salt, taste first, both capers and anchovies are quite salty, as is Parmesan, if you decide to use some.
1 medium to large eggplant
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 – 3 T minced garlic
1 – 3 T anchovy paste, or 3 – 10 (or so) anchovies
1/2 c capers, rinsed
1/2 c dry red wine
1/4 red wine vinegar
(salt) and pepper, to taste
1/2 c toasted pine nuts or walnuts
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, for serving, optional
1. To roast eggplant: Preheat oven to 400°F. Make several small slits in the eggplant. Place on a baking sheet, and roast until the vegetable has collapsed some, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on its size. Remove from oven and allow to cool, before cutting in half scraping out the flesh. Fork-shred it. Set aside.
2. If not roasting eggplant, peel or not. Cut off stem end, cut in half, and chop up as you wish. If you have time, put in a colander and salt it. Allow to sit for 30 minutes or so, then do a quick rinse and quick dry.
3. Put oil, garlic, and anchovies in a large skillet. Heat over low heat until the garlic has softened and is fragrant, but do not allow to brown. If using anchovy fillets, mash them up while cooking.
4. If using roasted eggplant shreds, add to skillet along with capers and remaining ingredients except for the nuts and cheese. Increase heat some and heat through. The mixture will be loose, but the liquid will be absorbed by the pasta. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta or pour over a bowl of cooked pasta. Top with nuts and cheese, if using.
5. If using uncooked eggplant, add to garlic, increase heat some and sauté, stirring, until tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Add capers and remaining ingredients and heat through. There mixture will be loose, but the liquid will be absorbed by the pasta. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta or pour over a bowl of cooked pasta. Top with nuts and cheese, if using.