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Olives and feta cheese add briny saltiness to this pasta, while the eggplant softens to tenderness while retaining a little bite.
4 to 6
Recipe by Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
1 pound penne
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste (2⁄3 cup)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
2 cups eggplant, diced (leave the peel on)
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, preferably aged, finely grated
Finely grind together the garlic, rosemary, oregano, and peppercorns.
To make the pasta: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Put one-quarter of the spice blend in a large pot of cold water and generously season it with salt; it should be as salty as seawater. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for a minute less than the package instructs for al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.
Scrape the tomato paste into a 3-quart baking dish. Add the oil, 2⁄3 cup of the reserved cooking water, and the remaining spice blend. Stir until very smooth, add the pasta, and fold until evenly coated. If the mixture seems dry, add more pasta water, a little at a time, until the noodles are evenly coated in sauce.
Add the feta, eggplant, olive, and half the Parmesan. Fold to distribute everything evenly, then smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan evenly on top.
Bake until the cheese melts and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes and serve hot.