I adore this dish. It is classic Naples. You will find it made at home and in restaurants all over Campania. For me, it’s the taste of home; my soul food.
This is not a light dish because the aubergine/eggplant are fried. No matter, just plan your calorie intake accordingly. The flavour is full bodied and tangy with an utterly satisfying creamy texture. And yes, it’s inherently vegan!
Make it as a side dish to eat as is or as a main along with a grain of your choice or spread it on bread for a picnic focaccia. Recipe after the photo.
Ingredients (for two as a side dish)
- 4 large aubergine/eggplant
- 3/4 cup passata or 1 1/2 cup fresh chopped tomatoes
- 2 tsp asafoetida
- a light vegetable oil for frying (varying amounts so keep the bottle nearby)
- 2 garlic cloves
- hot pepper, flakes or fresh chili chopped (optional)
- a small handful of parsley or basil leaves
- salt to taste
You will need a frying pan, a slotted spoon or slotted spatula and a cooling rack (the same as you would use for cooling any baked good). If you don’t have a cooling rack, use a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Quarter the aubergine lengthways. Remove the spongy, seedy core with small knife. Cut into small cubes (1/2 inch/1 cm). Heat (medium-high) about 1/2 cup of oil in a pan and add the 2 cloves of garlic. Once the garlic has gone golden, remove and discard (this leaves the scent of garlic, not its heaviness). Add asafoetida, a pinch of salt and mix. Next, add the aubergine, enough to fully fill the bottom of the pan without overcrowding. Each piece should have room to brown. Stir from time to time and, if necessary, reduce the heat if you see smoke or the aubergine burning. Fry the aubergine in batches until a dark golden brown and add more oil if required. Look at how the aubergine has reduced. That always amazes me.
Using your slotted spoon/spatula, place each cooked batch onto the cooling rack. The cooling rack, instead of the plate and kitchen paper method, prevents the fried food from getting soggy. Once all the aubergine is cooked and using the same pan, heat the fresh chili until soft. Skip this step if you’re using flakes. Add the passata to the frying pan along with a pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional) and salt. Heat for 2 minutes. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, then cook them in the pan until they’ve let out their juice and gone soft. You may need a tablespoon or two of oil if you’re using fresh tomatoes. Add the aubergine and mix them well with the passata/tomatoes. This last step should take about five minutes or less. Taste and add salt if necessary. Turn off heat, sprinkle parsley or basil atop and serve. Dish may be eaten warm or cold and it may be reheated.