During the holidays, I like to open up my schedule and book private chef events to earn a little something extra. A couple of days ago, I had an event on the books circling an Asian themed dinner. Unfortunately, the event canceled last minute and I was left with enough ingredients to feed 15 people. Not wanting to waste any of the produce, I decided to use them all up for my blog. Get ready for plenty of eggplant, corn, shishito pepper, and watercress posts! To start the madness, here is eggplant ragu, a great meat sauce substitution for those wanting to slim the waist, become vegetarian, or just try something new. Even if you’re a hardcore meat lover, this dish will be satisfying, believe me!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
When replacing meat, I’ve learned that it’s best to use vegetables with more substance, such as mushrooms and eggplant. Try making a meatless sauce with just tomatoes and zucchini and you’ll just end up with a variation of marinara sauce. Add eggplant, however, and it becomes something else, a heartier sauce that can actually replace meat – who would have thunk it?
The first step in making this eggplant ragu is sweating out the eggplant. Salt the eggplant, let it sit and you can see beads of moisture form on the surface. Why even perform this step? Salting the eggplant draws out the bitterness while preventing it from becoming too soft while cooking. Smaller eggplants tend to be fine even without salting since they have fewer seeds, but with large eggplants, it’s a must!
Most people shy away from anchovies but when it melts in the oil, the fishy taste disappears along with it and adds nutty elements to the dish.
Just as you would meat sauce, let the eggplant slowly cook with the tomatoes and peppers. Bolognese sauce typically takes 3-4 hours, but since we are only using vegetables, we can decrease the cooking process tenfold.
When tossing the rigatoni with the sauce, make sure to use the reserved pasta water to bind the sauce together. The starchy water combines everything together into one cohesive dish.
The finishing touch is, of course, the shaved parmesan. I had to stop myself from repeatedly sneaking in bites before taking this picture. I loved how the shape of the rigatoni allowed it to be fully coated in the sauce, soaking up all the goodness. I do love my bolognese, but when I want to be a little healthier, I’m reaching for this eggplant ragu!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.