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Caponata-Inspired Scarpinocc with Fried Capers, Pine Nuts & Balsamic

One of my favorite ways to use late summer eggplants is in caponata, the classic sweet-and-sour Sicilian dish that's the perfect part-salad-part-relish for all your bread and cracker needs. But what if you took all of those robust flavors and packed them into pasta?! These caponata-inspired scarpinocc are topped with a crispy, crunchy topping of fried capers, garlic, and toasted pine nuts, with a hit of vibrant balsamic vinegar to finish.

For the filling... 1 large or 2 small/medium eggplants, peeled and cut into ~1-inch cubes 1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled and cut into pieces 5 (or more) garlic cloves, unpeeled 1 tablespoon tomato paste ~1 tablespoon red wine vinegar ~2 teaspoons sugar 1-2 tablespoons capers, drained A few Castelvetrano (or similar) olives 1 ounce ricotta salata cheese, crumbled (optional) A couple of large spoonfuls of whole milk ricotta Olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 300°F (to speed things up, increase to 325°F or 350°F). In a large bowl, toss the eggplant cubes, shallot pieces, and garlic cloves in olive oil, salt, and pepper, as well as the red wine vinegar, sugar, and tomato paste so everything is as evenly coated as possible. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and roast until the eggplant is very tender and has released its moisture, about 1-1½ hours. Stir every 20 minutes or so.  Allow the eggplant to cool completely and peel the garlic. Transfer the eggplant, shallots, and peeled garlic to a food processor with the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine until thick and creamy. I added a small amount of whole milk ricotta to smooth out the mixture, so add as much (or as little) as you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more capers, olives, etc. as desired. Note that caponata is meant to be agrodolce (sweet and sour)! Transfer the filling to a bowl or piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the pasta.... Check out my website or Food52 for my go-to egg pasta dough recipe, and this Instagram post for a video tutorial on how to shape scarpinocc. You can also make whatever type of filled pasta you prefer (like the corzetti ravioli pictured below)! For the topping... ~3 tablespoons capers, drained ~3 tablespoons pine nuts A few crushed garlic cloves High-quality balsamic vinegar or a balsamic reduction ¼-½ cup olive oil Pat the capers dry with a paper towel. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the capers (watch out for splattering!) and cook until crisp, swirling the pan constantly, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Return the sauce pan to medium-low heat and add a few more glugs of olive oil. Add the pine nuts and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden (watch closely and adjust heat as needed!). Finishing touches... Cook the pasta in well-salted water and serve topped with the pine nuts, garlic, capers, and infused olive oil. Finish with a generous drizzle of balsamic and a few basil leaves, if desired. Enjoy!

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