Swap meat for eggplant with this vegetarian ragu, packed to the brim with umami flavours. A homemade ricotta is quick to make and adds a beautifully creamy contrast.
Tonnarelli is a spaghetti-like egg pasta with square edges, often called spaghetti alla chitarra, due to the special tool used to cut it which resembles a guitar. This recipe doesn’t require a chitarra, but rather utilises a more common pasta cutter found with most pasta machines. Simply roll the dough much thicker than you would usually and pass it through a tagliolini cutter to achieve a squared spaghetti shape.
For the eggplant ragu
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 500g eggplant, cubed
- 1 white onion, finely diced
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 70g tomato paste
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 can whole, peeled tomatoes - rinsed and drained of the liquid from the can
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- Parmesan skin/rind (optional)
- 40g Pecorino Romano
- Fresh mint, to serve
For the tonnarelli
- 300g pasta flour tipo “00”
- 165g eggs (Approx 2 whole and 2 yolks)
For the homemade ricotta
- 1.5 litres fresh whole milk (not UHT processed ie. long life)
- 60ml white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large bowl add the flour and create a well in the centre. Gently whisk the eggs before pouring into the well, then using a fork whisk the eggs, slowly incorporating a bit of flour at a time until the mix comes together as a shaggy dough.
- Transfer to a work surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, and not sticky at all. If at first you feel that the dough is too wet or dry, knead it for a few minutes to give it a chance to come together on its own, before adjusting with a spritz of water or dusting of flour if necessary.
- Cover or store the dough somewhere airtight and leave it to rest for at least 30 min.
- Cut the dough into four pieces. Working with one at a time (keeping the other pieces covered while you do), using a pasta machine, roll the piece dough out until it’s about 2.5mm thick (typically setting 3 on most machines).
- Pass the rolled dough through a tagliolini attachment to create your tonnarelli. Continue with the remaining dough.
Gently toss the strands with fine semolina, shape into a loose nest and place on a baking sheet lined with a clean tea towel or a dusting of fine semolina.
- In a large pan heat the olive oil, add the onion and eggplant and gently cook for 10 minutes until soft.
- Add the whole garlic cloves and cook for a minute or so until fragrant, then add the miso and tomato paste and stir well so everything is evenly coated.
- Next add the red wine and let the alcohol cook out before adding the tomatoes, vegetable stock and milk.
- Throw in the bay leaves and parmesan rind if using, then cover and simmer on the lowest possible heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If by 1 hour 30 minutes the ragu is still quite liquid, take the lid off and continue to cook for the remainder for the cooking time.
- In a large saucepan, gently heat the milk until it reaches 200F.
- Remove the milk from the heat, and pour in the vinegar and salt.
- Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes to allow the curds to separate from the whey.
- Scoop the large curds out and place in a sieve lined with a cheese cloth set over a bowl. Pour in the rest of the liquid and smaller bits of curd.
- Leave to drain over a bowl for at least an hour.
- Bring a pot of well salted water to boil and drop in the tonnarelli nests, cook for 2-3 minutes or until al dente.
- Add the grated Pecorino Romano to the eggplant ragu, followed by the cooked pasta with a little of the pasta water. Toss well to combine.
- Divide between bowls, top with dollops of the ricotta, chopped fresh mint and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil.
This recipe was created by Gabriella from @_noregrettispaghetti, check out Gabriella's instagram page here or website here.
Gabriella is a Londoner born to Armenian/Canadian parents, with a love of all things Italian, especially pasta. She fell in love with food between the pages of her mum’s Reader’s Digest cookbooks, and at the table of her grandmother’s Cypriot kitchen, watching dolma be rolled and lahmajun made.
When she’s not making her favourite carb, she can be found sharing some of her recipes on her blog, drinking far too much coffee, or hanging out with her dog, Gordon.