- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
- Kosher salt
- One 1 1/4 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 cups marinara sauce
- 1 pound penne rigate
- 1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves, torn
- Freshly ground pepper
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and 1/4 cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until hot, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and position the rack 8 inches from the heat. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the penne until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta, cooking water and the basil to the sauce; season with salt and pepper.
- Scrape the pasta into a large oval or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Scatter the mozzarella over the pasta followed by the Parmigiano and the panko. Broil the pasta for 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the panko is lightly browned. Serve hot.
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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.