The Mighty Melanzane

Summer’s bounty in a bowl of pasta.

By Robb Walsh September 3, 2013 Published in the September 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The climate of Sicily, like that of Texas, is good for growing sun-loving plants such as basil, eggplant (melanzane in Italian), and peppers, all of which we harvest in late August and September.

This simple Sicilian dish, named for the prolific purple-fruited wonder, combines those hot-weather favorites into one of Sicily’s most delicious pasta combos. The combination of eggplant, black olives, and grated cheese produces a flavor so rich, you tend to forget you’re eating a vegetarian meal.

This tastes great with spaghetti, but short pastas that soak up lots of sauce, such as casarecce or penne, are more traditional choices.


  • 1 eggplant (about 1 lb)
  • 1 lb Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 24 Sicilian black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Red wine, as needed
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked
  • 1/4 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese

Peel the eggplant and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Chop the tomatoes coarsely. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan for a few minutes until hot. Add the garlic and stir a minute or two until lightly browned. Add the eggplant and tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender. Mash the eggplant and tomatoes together and add the olives, basil, and seasonings. Moisten with a little wine as needed and cook for another five minutes. Toss with cooked pasta and top with grated cheese. 

This goes great with a cellar-temperature Sicilian red wine. 

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