Lent Me A Hand: Friday 1

Welcome to the first Friday of Lent. For those of you who are not up on the custom of it, besides making a “sacrifice” for 40 days, you are also supposed to refrain from eating any meat on Fridays (and my family added in Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – and usually kept to meat-free Fridays year round). I admit it, I “gave up” being a “Catholic” after 12 years of Catholic school (opting for my own brand of non-organized belief in good and embracing all the goodness in religions around me) but the traditions and rituals are a part of me and my diet. I don’t usually eat meat on Lenten Fridays.

So the challenge becomes – what to eat that is hearty, satisfying, and delicious? You want to indulge in something that is not “settling” but instead, would be a choice any other day of the year. And throughout this Lent, we will be giving you some choices that go beyond the homemade pizza, tuna salad, and fried sole of my youth (although they were all delicious).

Today I’m feeling pasta. A hearty pasta. Fusilli with Eggplant and Ricotta Salata to be exact. Here’s how:

Ingredients: 1-28 oz. can of whole peeled plum tomatoes, 1 medium eggplant diced, 5 cloves garlic chopped, 2 drizzles of extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tbsp. but it’s an “ish”), salt & pepper (can add red pepper flakes if you like a little heat), 1 lb. fusilli pasta (can opt for whole wheat, brown rice, multi-grain if you prefer), 4 oz. ricotta salata cheese (another “ish” amount – you may want more).

In a large sauté pan, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and chopped garlic – brown garlic over medium heat. Add diced eggplant, salt & pepper, and cook until it starts to be browned and softer (if the eggplant has absorbed the oil, you can add more). Then add the tomatoes, one at a time, “squishing” each in your hand (if you aren’t sure what I mean, go to our Filetto di Pomodoro video), adding the remaining juice in the can when you’re done. You might want to add more salt & pepper here since the eggplant absorbs quite a bit. Mix in and cover over low heat. Now is time to put up your pot of water for the fusilli. When the water boils, toss in the raw macaroni and cook according to preference or package instructions. Drain when cooked and put back into the pot. Ladle some of the eggplant mixture into the pasta and mix. To plate, ladle sauced pasta to a bowl, add a ladle of eggplant on top, and hand-crumble some ricotta salata on top!

Pair with a fresh crunchy salad and you have made it though your first Friday of Lent without sacrificing a thing.


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