I find myself gravitating back to the Italian way of life. Is it the food so simply prepared, the wine so fragrant and flavorful, or the people exhibiting a gusto for life? Yes, all of the above. I love to cook Italian food with just a few key ingredients. Sometimes simple is better. When traveling from region to region you find an assortment of flavors and styles of cooking. It's not just spaghetti and meatballs or pizza, contrary to tourist's beliefs. Most of what you eat is plentiful in that area and usually seasonal and simple. You may find eggplant dishes in Sicily but none in the Northern Lakes region. As you travel North you may be dining on cream based pastas (the Austrian influence) and in the South the pasta will be laced with olive oil. In the middle region, Toscana, you'll experience a peasant style of cooking. People in these regions made do with what they had and mostly it was beans, bread, wild hare and boar meat. And, of course, homemade pasta.
This pasta is made with Cannellini beans which are actually "white kidney" beans. They have an earthy flavor and accompanied with a meaty eggplant, it makes a perfect healthy pasta. Cannellini beans are loaded with protein and fiber, low on fat and filled with iron, potassium and vitamin B6. They are very versatile as they can be put into soups, salads and pastas.
In keeping with the "slim down" program I used brown rice pasta shells. I found a good brand!!
2 T olive oil
1 c sliced onion
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
12 oz or 1 1/2 c whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with juice (sorry, I used canned)
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cubed eggplant
2 cups pasta (before cooking)
1 c pasta water
Boil about 3 quarts of water for pasta. Cook shells for approx. 15 minutes. Drain and rinse reserving the 1 cup pasta water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet pan with olive oil cook all ingredients up to red pepper flakes on medium until onion is softened. Add tomatoes and eggplant and cook for 15 mins. Add the cannellini beans. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add pasta and pasta water. Mix and serve. Drizzle with olive oil and cheese if you wish. Makes 4 healthy servings.