There’s nothing easier and more satisfying for a quick meal than a pasta toss — a throw-together of pasta and mix-ins that make a full meal all on their own. Even if you get ambitious and add some crusty bread and a big green salad to this dinner, it’s still not going to take you any longer than 20 minutes or so to get it on the table; as is the case with all proper easy pasta tosses, everything comes together while the water boils and the pasta cooks.
1 box pasta of your choice, preferably whole wheat (use brown rice or quinoa pasta if you’re gluten-free)
1 lb. ground lamb or beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cubed eggplant (1/2-inch) — about 1 small eggplant
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup tomato puree (in a pinch, you can use marinara sauce)
3/4 cup whole milk or 1/2 and 1/2
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint, for garnish (optional)
Cook the pasta according to directions.
While the water is boiling for the pasta, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, until just beginning to soften; add the lamb or beef and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the meat begins to brown.
Stir in the cubed eggplant and season with the cinnamon, oregano, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Pour in the tomato puree and about 1/4 cup of the starchy water that you dip out of the pasta pot; stir well and cook, covered, for 7-8 minutes, until the eggplant is tender and the meat is cooked all the way through.
Uncover the skillet and stir the milk or cream into the meat mixture. Simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes, uncovered, to thicken slightly. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed; add a bit more pasta water if you feel it’s too thick.
Toss the meat sauce with the pasta, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh mint, if desired.