Pasta cu i Cucunci | Sicilian Vegetable Pasta
This dish is an excellent example of how pasta water—full of starch and minerals—can be used to create incredibly creamy sauces with little else but vegetables!
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we made this recipe here:
For this recipe, you will need:
- 1 bell pepper (only 1/3 will be used, see below)
- 10 caper berries (not the same as capers, which are much smaller)
- 4 anchovies
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/2 large eggplant, cubed
- 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 10 medium black olives, halved
- 3-4 fresh basil leaves
- 5.5 oz. (155g) spaghetti or busiate pasta
- Fresh black pepper
- Grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping (optional)
Preheat an oven to 380 degrees F (195 C). Place the whole bell pepper on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until it begins to brown. Remove and let cool. Cut about 1/3 of the pepper into thin slices, and save the rest for another dish!
Finely mince the caper berries and anchovies, then mix them with 2 tbsp olive oil. Alternatively, you can combine all three ingredients and mince them with an immersion blender. Set aside for later.
Put a large pot of water on to boil. As it comes up to temperature, begin preparing the sauce.
In a large pan, add the garlic clove and 2 tbsp olive oil. Bring up to medium temperature on the stovetop. Once the oil begins to sizzle around the garlic, add the cubed eggplant and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the eggplant begins to turn golden.
When the pasta water comes to a rolling boil, salt it generously and add the pasta. Cook as directed, but set a timer for 2 minutes less than the recommended "al dente" cook time.
After the eggplants have browned a litte, add the cherry tomatoes and cover the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to soften and wrinkle. Remove the lid and add the sliced peppers, olives, the caper berry mince, and a few torn leaves of basil.
Bring the sauce to a simmer. If there isn't much moisture in the pan, add a spoonful or two of pasta water as needed. Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.
When the pasta is cooked, use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer it into the sauce, along with a ladleful of pasta water. Stir all together over medium/high heat.
The dish is ready when the excess moisture has thickened and the pasta is al dente to your taste. If the sauce thickens too quickly and the pasta isn't fully cooked, simply continue to ladle a little bit more pasta water into the pan and keep simmering.
Serve immediately, topped with some grated cheese. Buon appetito!