Eggplant Crockpot Pasta Sauce

served with Parmesan and basil

ingeredients

The last 10 minutes of San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers Market are filled with vendors shouting “$1 a bag!” which is how I ended up lugging home 2 bags of eggplant and a huge bag of tomatoes home on the Bart train!

We’re in the middle of one of those rare but scorching Bay Area heat spells, so I decided to use my Crockpot to cook the eggplant and veggies instead of roasting them in the oven. Although not as toothsome as roasting, they came out tasty and ready to mix with penne or rigatoni pasta.

chopped vegetables

Ingredients:
A very large bag of tomatoes. It’s fine if they’re a little soft, and that’s what you’re going to get with bargain bag tomatoes anyway.
5 long Italian eggplants and 4 small globe eggplants
1 ½ small onions, (or one large onion)
2 bell peppers (or a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers).
5 large mushrooms
6 spicy chicken Italian sausages (you can use sweet if that’s too spicy for you)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Parmesan rind
4 bay leaves,
Sprig of rosemary
1 Tb oregano
1 ½ tsp salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 Tb of olive oil
1 Tb red wine
1 Tb of sugar

Add after cooking sauce:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 fresh bunch of basil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2/3 pound of penne or rigatoni pasta

Chop the vegetables and sausage and add the other ingredients in the first list to the Crockpot. I went to the trouble of dipping the tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them, but it’s not really necessary to do that.

in the crock pot

Cooked sauce in the Crockpot

I started the sauce after work and let it cook all night. (You can also start yours in the morning and cook it all day.) I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough liquid to cook it properly, but in the morning I realized that the vegetables had released plenty of liquid. I removed the Parmesan rind, which had given up its flavor to the sauce.

I added a can of chopped artichoke hearts. I chopped half the bunch of fresh basil I had bought at the farmers market and stirred it in with the freshly grated Parmesan. I let it sit in the fridge until dinner time so the flavors would develop.

At dinnertime, I boiled 2/3 of a pound box rigatoni pasta  and mixed it together with the sauce. I chopped up the rest of the fresh basil and sprinkled it on top with more Parmesan. This made 9 meals. Yay for leftovers!

layered with Parmesan

layered sauce with Parmesan

Making a Pesto Myself with Dino Kale

pesto with brown rice penne

dinosaur kale

Isn’t dinosaur kale cool looking? It looks like the scales on a green prehistoric beast. Kale is all the rage these days because it is chock-full of vitamins and minerals. My daughter and I love it, but my husband and son are sick of it. So sometimes I need to be sneaky. I sneaked some dinosaur kale into this pesto, and the guys didn’t even realize it was there. The pesto tasted great and had increased nutritious value. Although I usually make pesto in August from my homegrown basil leaves, I wanted to make this now, when the kale is flavorful from winter frosts. I saute the garlic briefly before adding it to mellow the sharp flavor of raw garlic.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups dinosaur kale leaves, stems and ribs discarded

1 ½ cups (1 bunch) fresh whole basil leaves, heavy stems discarded

1 medium clove garlic, sliced

¼ cup pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ tsp sea salt plus 1 tsp for pasta water

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup cooking water from pasta

Heat a large pot with water and 1 tsp salt to boiling. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Remove thick stems and heavy ribs from kale and basil. Pulse kale and basil leaves in food processor. Briefly saute garlic and remove before it browns. Add the garlic, pine nuts and salt. Pulse until all ingredients are diced very fine. Add grated Parmesan. Pour in oil while machine is running. When pasta is cooked, pour in 1/4 water from the pot into the pesto and pulse. Scrape the sides of the processor, then pulse a final time.

Drain pasta and mix in pesto.

pesto

I like to saute about 6 quartered mushrooms and stir into the pasta and pesto. I sauteed the mushrooms and then added the garlic to the frying pan for a minute.

 

Basil-Meyer Lemon Salad Dressing and Marinade

I used the flowering parts of my basil plant.  They added a floral quality.

You can also make this just with leaves if your plant is not flowering.

Serves 3 salads:

2 Tb basil flowers and/or leaves

juice  of one large Meyer lemon: 2 Tb

1 Tb water

1 Tb garlic-infused olive oil and 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil

sprinkle of salt to taste, about 1/8 tsp.

Blend together and pour over green garden salad. I made my salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, and artichoke hearts canned in water.

I added sliced baked chicken breast, and the basil dressing worked well with that too.

Great on the grill! To use as a chicken marinade: Double the basil, lemon and oil to ¼ cup each. Increase the salt to 1 tsp. I added a ripe tomato to the blender and it made the chicken juicy and tender after a couple of hours marinade time. Remember to make several cuts on each side of the boneless breast to allow the marinade to penetrate. Reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade (that you don’t put the chicken in), and pour over cooked chicken for even more flavor.

I made this in a clay pot, cooking the chicken in the marinade. It came out very juicy and tender. Immerse clay pot in a sink-full of water for 15 minutes. Pour chicken with the marinade in the pot. Place in cold oven and set temperature for 400′ and bake for about 30 minutes until done.