Penne Pasta Salad with Grilled Fennel, Roasted Eggplant, Black Olives, and Fresh Dill
Published by Knopf
Someone gave us a version of this recipe, but neither of us can remember who it was. We’d love to give you credit, so, if you’re reading this, let us know. The fennel is roasted until it is caramelized, so it is sweet—and very good.
“I pour a lot of salt into the water when I’m cooking pasta. I want the salt to get in the noodle, not just on the noodle.”—Frank
Total Timeunder 2 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Courseappetizer, main course
Dietary Considerationappetizer, main course
Taste and Texturecheesy, herby, savory, sweet
Type of Dishpasta
- 8 cups cold salted water (for the pasta)
- 1 pound penne pasta
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the pasta and the finished salad
- 1 small or ½ large eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-wide sticks
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 fennel bulbs
- 1 cup black olives (such as Moroccan oil-cured)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- ½ cup coarsely grated Pecorino cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Bring the salted water to a boil in a big pot over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente—tender but with a bite. Drain the pasta well in a colander. Dump into a bowl big enough to hold the entire salad, and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together.
Put the eggplant in a colander placed in the sink. Sprinkle with a thin coat of salt, and toss to distribute salt to all sides of the eggplant. Let the eggplant rest for at least 20 minutes to sweat out the bitterness.
To prepare the fennel, cut off the leafy tops and the stalks. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise, and use a paring knife to cut out the core. Cut each fennel half lengthwise into ¼-inch slices, and toss them in a small bowl with a tablespoon of the olive oil, a sprinkling of salt (¼ teaspoon), and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. Spread the fennel slices on a sheet pan, place the sheet pan in the oven, and roast until edges of fennel begin to brown, 25–30 minutes. (If you find the fennel browning unevenly, use a long fork or tongs to turn the pieces over.) Remove the sheet pan from the oven and use a metal spatula to scrape the fennel and oil into the bowl with the pasta.
In the same bowl you used to season the fennel, toss the eggplant and garlic with the remaining olive oil and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper. Spread the eggplant on your sheet pan, and roast for 10–15 minutes, until the sides touching the pan are brown and the insides feel soft and creamy. Remove the sheet pan from the oven, and use a metal spatula to scrape the eggplant and oil off the sheet pan into the bowl with the pasta.
Pit olives by pressing one between your fingers until the pit breaks through the olive and pops out. Chop the olives coarsley and toss them in the bowl on top of the eggplant.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pasta and vegetables and toss the salad using a big spoon or your hands. Taste for salt. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
2003 Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau