This eggplant ragoût came together really fast, making dinner on a Thursday night a snap. A ragoût (ra-goo) is a thick, rich, well-seasoned stew of meat, poultry or fish that can be made with or without vegetables. Since this is a vegan version I opted to make it a ragout of eggplant and tomatoes. The word ragoût is a derivative of the French verb ragoûter, meaning “to stimulate the appetite” and this dish certainly delivered!!
Eggplants come in many varieties, the king of which is the statuesque Italian black beauty variety. This is a very meaty vegetable and can be used as a substitute for meat in many dishes. In the case of this ragoût my eggplant is the star and provides the bulk of the volume of the stew. As it cooks, some of the fleshy fruit breaks down to form a hearty sauce along with the fresh and fruity grape tomatoes. Some might choose to peel their eggplant, but I am a believer in the nutrients the peel has to offer and so I did not peel it.
I am serving a family of four so one nice, big eggplant was enough. I diced it up and tossed it into hot olive oil with two heaping scoops of robust sun-dried tomatoes and the oil they were preserved in with a pinch of sea salt to encourage them to release their juices. While my eggplant started cooking, I got my pasta water going and sliced all those juicy grape tomatoes in half. The halved tomatoes go into the pan along with some fresh garlic and I give it a good toss before seasoning the pot with more salt, black pepper, dried Italian herbs, roasted garlic powder and red pepper flakes. I say use one teaspoon of red pepper flakes but this should really say at least one teaspoon, use more based on your personal heat preference. I added more to my own bowl at the table. Now it just needs to cook for a bit to break down the eggplant and tomatoes, keep an eye on it and stir frequently.
Once your ragoût is becoming more stew like, add the flavor boost of fresh basil. Stack the big leaves and roll them up into a tube, then you can slice them into thin ribbons of flavor packed goodness. This technique is called chiffonade (shif-uh-nahd) and literally means “made of rags” in French. Save some smaller basil leaves for use as a garnish when you serve. Stir the fresh herbs into the ragoût and turn down the heat to a simmer. Some bits will have stuck to the bottom of your pan, you can rescue them by deglazing with the dry white wine. Your ragoût will begin forming a sauce, you can further heighten the flavor explosion with a couple tablespoons of home-made vegan pesto. I like to make it up ahead and freeze it in ice cube trays that I later transfer to freezer bags, each cube equals a tablespoon. The recipe for this pesto is simple: 1½ cups of loosely packed basil, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1 cup of pine nuts (or almonds or walnuts), 5 cloves garlic, 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (instead of Parmesan cheese), ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
The next stage of sauce building involves adding a few dips of my boiling pasta water to the pan. Once the pasta is done, I use a pasta scoop to transfer the pasta from the pot to the pan of ragoût. This method drains the pasta but still delivers a bit more of the pasta water to help thin out the ragoût. Before I stir it all up together I shake on the quarter cup or so of Bragg Nutritional Yeast directly on the pasta and then toss it all together. Nutritional yeast or Nooch adds a wonderful cheesy flavor to any dish. It is also marvelous on popcorn!!
Once the pasta is thoroughly coated with the ragoût, serve it up in a pretty bowl with some fresh basil leaves as garnish. Your diners may want additional “cheese” so I suggest putting the Nooch on the table! This dish leaves a lovely spicy fresh taste in your mouth and is quite filling. It also stores well for excellent re-heatable leftovers.
- 1 large Italian Eggplant, diced
- 1 clam shell Grape Tomatoes, halved
- 3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 T Sun-dried Tomatoes in Oil, heaping
- 2 T Olive Oil
- ½ C Dry White Cooking Wine
- Several large Basil leaves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp Roasted Garlic Powder
- 1 T Dried Italian Herbs
- 1 tsp Red Pepper Flake
- Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
- 2 T Home-made pesto (pine nuts, basil & olive oil)
- ¼ C Bragg Nutritional Yeast
- 16 oz. Linguine Pasta
- Prepare pasta according to package directions.
- Preheat olive oil in a large saute pan.
- Stir in 2 heaping tablespoons of Sun-dried tomatoes with oil, diced eggplant and a generous pinch of sea salt.
- Allow the eggplant to cook while you slice the grape tomatoes in half.
- Toss in sliced tomatoes and minced garlic and stir all together.
- Season the ragout with more salt as well as black pepper, roasted garlic powder, dried Italian herbs and red pepper flakes. Allow to cook down, stirring frequently.
- Roll basil leaves up to slice thinly and stir into the ragout.
- Lower heat to deglaze the pan with wine and stir in the home made pesto
- Add 3-4 spoons of pasta water to form a sauce and allow the ragout to simmer while pasta finishes cooking..
- Use a pasta scoop to drain and dip pasta out of the water and into the ragout and stir it all in together with the nutritional yeast.
- Use pasta water to thin the sauce a bit if necessary and mix it all up