The first stop in our newly released -zine, Il Mare, is the beautiful island of Capri. A rocky island surrounded by azure blue seas, it is located just a short ferry or hydrofoil ride from Naples, Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Summer playground to Roman emperors, European nobility, and Hollywood stars, it’s a magical place that holds a special place in my heart.
Like many other tourist hotspots in Europe, its daytime population swells to an unmanageable size but if you can visit like a local or stay overnight, it can be a perfect vacation spot.
I had the good fortune to spend a lot of time on Capri years ago when I became the adopted family member of a big group of people who called Capri home (read more about my time on Capri in Il Mare! 😊). I found the people who live there to be incredibly warm and hospitable. They are so proud of the beauty and tradition of their island home and its place as a world-famous destination.
Almost everyone I met had an occupation in the tourist industry so the summer was a busy time. They still made time to gather in family garden houses to relax. Everyone seemed to have a connection to a family or group garden somewhere on the island. I remember walking through terraced hillside gardens filled with lemon trees, grape vines, and one type of summer vegetable after another. There was always a small stone building to cook, gather friends, eat good wood, and drink local wine.
The cooking I remember was so simple. Fresh vegetables from the summer garden, limoncello made from the winter citrus, and seafood fished that day. Everything was made in minutes and simply seasoned so you could taste summer in every bite.
One of the dishes I remember best was pasta aumm aumm. It’s a simple dish made with tomatoes, eggplant, and mozzarella. Its name “aumm aumm” means “hush-hush” as in telling a secret in the local dialect. So this summer, I offer this hushed secret to you for a simple summer meal.
Pasta aumm aumm is a traditional summer recipe from the island of Capri. Made with gloriously fresh tomatoes and eggplant and locally made mozzarella cheese, it’s a perfect light dish of a hot day. Traditionally, it’s made with fried eggplant but I prepare it her with roasted eggplant to avoid the mess and cleanup of frying. I used a small countertop oven and kept the kitchen nice and cool.
Serve hot with a green salad for a perfect lunch.
- 1 medium unpeeled eggplant, ½-inch dice
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- Pinch of red pepper
- 12 cherry tomatoes or 6 small-medium tomatoes, cut in half or smaller
- 1 ball whole-milk mozzarella cheese, diced into small pieces
- 4 dry servings penne pasta (about 8 oz)
- Fresh basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- In a colander, add the diced eggplant and liberally sprinkle with salt and toss. Let sit for 30 minutes in the sink.
- Pre-heat oven to 450℉.
- Set up a medium bowl. In batches, press the salted eggplant between paper towels to remove the accumulated moisture. Place in the bowl and coat the eggplant with olive oil (note the oil absorbs fast into the eggplant but will come out again when roasted). Add salt and pepper and toss.
- Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and distribute the eggplant evenly.
- Roast for 30 minutes, tossing once, until golden brown. (can be made ahead)
- In a sauté pan, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium-low heat. Add a pinch of the red pepper flakes and the garlic. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes to let the garlic flavor the olive oil, then add the tomatoes.
- Cook until the tomatoes soften and begin to fall about, about 15-20 mins. You can cover the pan to speed this up,
- Cook the pasta per the package directions to “al dente”. While cooking the pasta, remove and discard the garlic from the tomato mixture and add the roasted eggplant. Gently stir to incorporate.
- When the pasta is ready, reserve some pasta water and drain.
- Setup a serving bowl and set aside. Add the pasta to the tomato-eggplant mixture and gently stir over low heat until the pasta is to you liking. If the mixture is too dry and not saucy enough for you, add a little pasta water and toss more.
- Pour the mixture into the serving bowl. Add the mozzarella and combine with the pasta. The mozzarella should just slightly melt.
- Dress with good quality olive oil if you wish and serve with some torn basil on top.