Pasta recipe with charred eggplant, ricotta and mojo de ajo from Thomasina Miers | Food

Ajo mojo is one of my favorite Mexican sauces. The garlic, and lots of it, is poached very gently in oil with thyme and a hint of smoked chipotle pepper for flavor and heat; after about half an hour, the garlic becomes soft, sweet and irresistibly good. The sauce is also versatile, making a nice marinade for grilled meats and also wonderful on roasted vegetables or blanched leafy greens.

Pasta with charred eggplant, ricotta and mojo de ajo

Try it with a chili oil made with habanero peppers and Mexican oregano, or with Sichuan peppercorns and coriander seeds.

Preparation 20 mins
To cook 45 minutes
Serves 4

3 large eggplantsstems removed and quartered lengthwise
1 onionpeeled and cut into quarters
6 large tomatoes (or 650g tomatoes of any size)
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
250g ricotta

1 lemonzest, plus juice of ½ lemon
300 grams
rigatoni
1 large handful of basil leaves
coarsely shredded

For the mojo
2 whole heads of garlic
2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo
finely chopped
200ml of olives or vegetable oil
1 small handful
sprigs of thymeselected
1 t
sp flaky sea salt

Make the mojo first. Break off the heads of garlic, then crush each clove once or twice with a rolling pin, so you can peel them easily. Finely chop the peeled garlic in a small food processor, then transfer it to a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the rest of the mojo ingredients. Heat gently until the oil begins to bubble, then lower the heat to low and simmer very gently for half an hour (if you cook it too quickly the garlic will burn and you will lose the taste of olive oil).

Meanwhile, grill the vegetables either under a hot broiler or on a griddle or dry pan. If using the grill, arrange them in a single layer on foil-lined trays, brush with two to three tablespoons of olive oil and season, then grill for 20 to 30 minutes , until they blacken. If you are dry roasting, you don’t need to add any oil, just fry them over high heat.

While the vegetables cook, drain the ricotta, toss it with the lemon zest and a tablespoon of olive oil, then season to taste. Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain, reserving a cup of pasta water to soften the sauce later.

Once the vegetables are knife-tender and nicely charred, cut them into bite-size pieces (discard the eggplant stems) and pour into a large bowl. Stir in the basil and hot pasta, season and season with two to three tablespoons of olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed, then serve in warm bowls topped with the ricotta mixture and with the mojo on the side for people to help themselves to.

The simple flex

To make this vegan, omit the ricotta and instead toss the eggplant pasta with chunky golden ciabatta croutons and chopped toasted almonds.