Aubergine and Merguez sausage pasta

On Thursday night, feeling lazy, I  shoved a bunch of tomatoes in the oven with some onions and a few cloves of garlic, roasted it, and dumped it over pasta. It worked broadly, but didn’t quite cohere. The presentation was pleasingly caricature-rustic, and the roasted garlic flavour gave the whole thing a rich backbone. There was a faint smokiness from the slightly-singed tomato skins, the garlic, and the onions (which also retained some crunch). But it wasn’t there yet.

The obvious thing to add would probably be peppers. Courgettes would work, too. Throw it all in the oven, maybe add some wine at the end and mush up the tomatoes a bit. But again, that doesn’t feel quite right to me.

So here’s the plan: switch out the pappardelle for orecchiette, I was just using up leftovers anyway. That changes the texture breakdown, and opens up different structures of sauce, and size and shape of ingredients. Keep the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onion pieces – the garlic can be peeled and fine-chopped back into the sauce at the end. Go with the wine to let it out a bit. To make it richer and more substantial, throw in baby aubergines and Merguez sausages. I’m keeping an open mind on the peppers. I’ll see what I impulse buy at Al-Amin.

That was the idea on Friday morning. Here’s how it went in practice:

Ingredients:

  • Orecchiette
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic cloves, skin-on
  • Onions
  • Baby aubergines
  • Merguez sausages

Instructions:

Cut the onion into quarters, or smaller segments. Top and tail the baby aubergines. They look beautiful roasted with the stalks on, but it’s not exactly practical for serving.

Put everything in an oven dish with a little oil and seasoning, and put it into a medium oven. Maybe around 160, for 15 minutes. After that minutes, remove the garlic. Peel it, fine chop it, and add it back. If the sausages have given off a lot of fat, and the whole thing is swimming, you may need to pour a little off  Likewise, if it’s all too dry, you may want to stir in a splash of wine or stock. Raise the temperature a little, and return everything to the oven.

This should be for another 15 minutes or so, but basically around the time it takes the pasta to cook.

At the end, remove and halve the aubergines if they’re on the large side, then add them back. Remove and slice up the sausages, and re-add those, too. The tomatoes should have cooked down and burst a little, but it’s a good idea to give them a bit of a mash and stir everything together, possibly with a little wine if it’s looking dry.

Stir in the pasta and serve.

I forgot to photograph this at the time, so this is a leftovers shot. It’s been in the fridge, and it was a little too greasy to start with, so it’s looking a touch congealed. But you get the idea:

The main way I’d improve this would be to keep an eye out for the fat coming off the sausages. You could even roast or fry them separately. You could then de-glaze with a little white wine, maybe add some fennel seeds, and stir it all together at the end. Chorizo would substitute well for the Merguez, either the cooking kind or dice of the dried sort. Actually, chorizo and courgette would work just as well as Merguez and aubergine.

But the final result is a promisingly rich and lightly spicy dish, with a sauce that clings thickly to the orecchiette. The garlic and reduced tomato do most of the heavy lifting, and the aubergines have a great texture. I’d say it works, and you can just about get it done in half an hour.

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