Rena’s aubergine in tomato sauce

I made my favorite eggplant dish tonight for an impromptu dinner with my neighbors. I learned how to make it at my friend
Rena’s weekend house on an island on the Aegean Sea, hence the Greek Style in the name. Rena and I made
this often on those trips, as it’s quite versatile. We would make a
batch to serve on the first night as a side dish to roasted
meat, perhaps lamb from right there on the island. On the second day
we might use it as a sauce for a pasta lunch. If we had any left,
which was not often, we might spread the -by then- mushy sauce on crusty
bread, a perfect first bite to get the appetite going at the dinner table.

We didn’t use a recipe when we cooked this on Kea, letting our
eyes, nose, and palate guide us along. Although I’ve written up a
recipe here for easy reference, I suggest that you do the same as Rena
and I did on that sunny island because, as any great peasant recipe worth
its salt, this one will not benefit from following the recipe to the
letter. Water, sugar, and acid contents in tomatoes vary quite a bit,
so you will have to adjust your ingredients accordingly. Trust your
taste and the result will delight you.

Don’t be afraid to believe in your own taste, this dish is so simple
it’s almost impossible to go wrong. The ingredient list is short, tomatoes, eggplants, onion, olive oil, and thyme that grows wild all over the island. How much
simpler could it get?

Penne and Rena’s Aubergine in tomato sauce, Greek style

1.5 pounds eggplant (use the thin, elongated eggplants since they will stay in chunks rather than break up into a complete mush)
2 pounds tomatoes
2-2.5 cups olive oil (I love a lot of oil in this dish, but you can tone it down to your taste.)
1 small onion, diced
Fryingauberginea few sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Fill a medium size pot about 2/3 way up with water and set to boil. While waiting for the water to boil, turn you attention to the eggplants –cut them crosswise into about 2-inch thick pieces.

Heat a large pan, at least 10" in diameter with the olive oil. When a piece of eggplant sizzles immediately on contact with the oil, it is hot enough. Fry the eggplant pieces until well brown on each side. Depending on the size of your pan, you might need to do this in two or three batches. Take the fried eggplant pieces out of the pan when done, turn the heat off, and leave the leftover oil in the pan.

To peel and seed the tomatoes, first cut a cross at the base of the tomato with a sharp knife. Dip a few tomatoes at a time into the small pot filled with water -which should be boiling rigorously by now- and leave them in the boiling water for about 30-45 seconds. The skin will peel off the tomato quite easily after the boiling water bath. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes. Puree the tomato flesh until it is the texture of tomato sauce. You can use a regular blender or a hand blender for this.

Add the diced onion into the pan and turn the heat back up to medium-low. Sautee the onions until translucent and change the color slightly. When the onion is done, add the tomato puree into the pan, stir to mix well and throw in a big handful of salt, a copious amount of ground pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. Let the sauce bubble on the medium heat for a few minutes. Taste the sauce, you might need to add more salt. Remember that the sauce will have to be salty enough for all those eggplants, which have so far not been seasoned at all.

Then, add the eggplant slices back into the large pan. Be careful to not spill hot oil on yourself, and be very gentle with the fragile eggplant pieces. Check your seasoning, you might need to add a little more salt than you think you need. Let the pan bubbles on medium heat until the sauce reduced by almost half, or until it is the consistency you like. You might need to loosen the eggplant slices from the pan to keep them from sticking. Be very gentle when doing this, as the dish will be more visually attractive with most pieces of eggplants staying in tact. If you mush up a few, or even a lot, no worries, your dish will be just as good. Remove from heat when done. Pick out the sprigs of thyme if you can see them. You can top the dish with a bit of fresh olive oil at this point if you’d like, but it’s not at all required.

This dish will serve 6-8 with pasta (short Penne style will be better with this than long strands of Spaghetti) as a main course, or serve more people as a side dish to a roasted leg of lamb or other meats.


Yet another leftover idea.

I just made a new dish with the Penne pasta and the aubergine sauce that I have left from dinner last night. It’s very easy. Take a small-medium baking dish, butter the inside to prevent sticking, then line the dish with the cooked Penne from last night. Top the pasta with the aubergine sauce, then dot a few little balls of Mozzerella over the top, pushing them a bit into the sauce and pasta layer. Throw in a sprinkle or two of red pepper flakes for kick, if you’d like. Bake this in a preheated 375F oven for about 20 minutes, or until everything is hot and a little bit bubbly. Take the dish out of the oven, and switch the oven to Broil. Top the dish with a mixture of breadcrumb and grated Parmigiano Reggiano (1:2 ratio). Put it back in the oven to broil until the top is nice a brown. Serve.

If you like the cheese crust to be a little on the gooey side, you can add some grated Gruyère cheese to the breadcrumb mixture as well.

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28 Responses to “Rena’s aubergine in tomato sauce

  • Mikeachim said:
    September 21st, 2006 at 3:31pm

    That post sums up why I’m obsessed with Greek food (grew up in Cyprus, which may have something to do with it too).
    Simply ingredients, prepared simply, relying on their own taste and the taste-liberating power of salt & pepper. And the joy of being a bit slapdash with it all, impishly imprecise.
    Chasing the oily dregs around the bowl with torn-off lumps of crusty bread…..
    And now – I’m hungry. Your fault. You.

  • Matthew Bowden said:
    September 22nd, 2006 at 3:32am

    Nice recipe. Will try this combination. Usually do the italian equivalent with cheese added which requires less salt as a result.
    BTW how is the writing coming ?. Its been a while since you moved careers but not heard much on the site about it.

  • Monkey Gland said:
    September 23rd, 2006 at 11:17am

    You used the words aubergine AND egg plant in your post. Which side of the divide do you really fall…?

  • Buffy said:
    September 23rd, 2006 at 7:39pm

    This looks divine!

  • Lucy Vanel said:
    September 25th, 2006 at 4:59am

    This sauce looks like a keeper. Thank you, Pim!

  • Dianka said:
    September 25th, 2006 at 12:17pm

    What great ideas, Pim. Love the leftover recipe. I’m writing this one down!

  • tongue in cheek said:
    September 26th, 2006 at 8:13am

    Pulling up a chair and hoping that simple means it will pop out of the computer nice and hot…I’ll uncork the wine?!
    Lovely blog you have, I am glad to have stumbled in!!

  • idlehouse said:
    September 26th, 2006 at 7:13pm

    I tried your recipe tonight, it was superb. Thank you!

  • Jason said:
    September 26th, 2006 at 10:37pm

    Great recipe. I tried it yesterday and my wife and I loved it! I was wondering if there was a trick to get the sauce to adhere to the pasta better, however.

  • becca said:
    September 30th, 2006 at 2:05pm

    Beautiful … full of memories.

  • Julie O'Hara said:
    October 2nd, 2006 at 7:32am

    I love how you instructed the readers of this recipe to follow their tastes! That is so important in cooking and you put it quite eloquently. I’ve seen more things go wrong when amateur cooks try to follow a recipe to the letter instead of just using their common sense and their senses.

  • Jean-Louis said:
    October 3rd, 2006 at 8:15pm

    Nice recipe! But I am afraid it may be better in Greece, or Italy, maybe Santa Cruz if you have fresh tomatoes at hand (a certain two stars Michelin has very good ones).
    With lousy tomatoes, beef stock and tomato paste help the taste, if not the authenticity.

  • One Food Guy said:
    November 2nd, 2006 at 10:07am

    Pim, thanks for this great recipe. I made it last night with a few modifications to taste. It’s a keeper. Here my nod to you: Thank you!

  • belma said:
    November 16th, 2006 at 6:00pm

    diz is greek foood recepi? got 2 make it?

  • emma k said:
    March 3rd, 2007 at 11:59am

    i made this last week and its truly wonderful – i’m now a huge fan of aubergines. fantastic thanks

  • Rebekah P said:
    May 11th, 2007 at 1:30pm

    I made this last night after a horrible day at work and it was spectacular. It cheered me up immediately. Thank you for posting such a simple, and delicious receipe.

  • vicki said:
    June 13th, 2007 at 12:55am

    Hi Pim,
    I was wondering if you had any advice on pickling gherkins? I’m growing from seed on my allotment and just can’t seem to find a contemporary recipe which doesn’t include soaking them for days on end – when I’ve made pickles before, I’ve used hot baths of vinegar, and was thinking of doing the same for these – would love your advice. (ps – just can’t stop making your greek aubergine dish – delicious!)

  • Chas said:
    December 12th, 2007 at 9:15am

    Just found your site recently and love it. This recipe in particular caught my eye and so I made it last night. Nice and easy and very delicious. My wife doesn’t like eggplant but she loved this dish. Thanks!

  • Peter said:
    March 26th, 2008 at 12:44pm

    Hello Pim, first time visitor to your site (I believe) and as a Greek, I would most definitely eat this pasta dish.
    The one thing that would send this dish to ultimate Greekness is some grated Kefalotyri cheese.

  • Peter said:
    March 26th, 2008 at 1:14pm

    Hello Pim, first time visitor to your site (I believe) and as a Greek, I would most definitely eat this pasta dish.
    The one thing that would send this dish to ultimate Greekness is some grated Kefalotyri cheese.

  • Andrea said:
    September 18th, 2008 at 10:11am

    Wow. You are on fire with great meal ideas with summer produce! They all sound fantastic and just the kind of cooking I am inclined to do. Thanks for the ideas Pim.

  • Andrea said:
    September 18th, 2008 at 10:12am

    Wow. You are on fire with great meal ideas with summer produce! They all sound fantastic and just the kind of cooking I am inclined to do. Thanks for the ideas Pim.

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  • chinesevegetablerecipes said:
    March 30th, 2009 at 2:38am

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  • JAN said:
    August 5th, 2009 at 10:10am


  • Anxiety And Depression said:
    December 23rd, 2009 at 7:43am

    Eggplant is one of my favorite veggies.. Thanks for sharing that recipes..

  • agoodic said:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 11:45pm

    Wow. You are on fire with great meal ideas with summer produce! They all sound fantastic and just the kind of cooking I am inclined to do. Thanks for the ideas Pim.
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  • Nellie said:
    November 6th, 2011 at 7:24pm

    A friend made this dish the other night and it was outstanding! She used canned crished tomatoes and v8 juice instead of the fresh tomato and it was fabulous. Less work same taste!  

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