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Thomasina Miers’ recipe for pasta with charred aubergine, ricotta and mojo de ajo | Food

Mojo de ajo is one of my favourite Mexican sauces. Garlic, and lots of it, is poached very gently in oil with thyme and a hint of smoked chipotle chilli for flavour and warmth; after about half an hour, the garlic turns soft, sweet and irresistibly good. The sauce is versatile, too, making a beautiful marinade for grilled meats and also wonderful on roast vegetables or blanched green leaves.

Pasta with charred aubergine, ricotta and mojo de ajo

Try this with a chilli oil made from habanero chillies and Mexican oregano, or with Sichuan peppercorns and coriander seeds.

Prep 20 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 4

3 large aubergines, stems removed and quartered lengthways
1 onion, peeled and quartered
6 large tomatoes (or 650g tomatoes of any size)
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
250g ricotta

1 lemon, zested, plus juice of ½ lemon
300g
rigatoni
1 big handful basil leaves
, roughly shredded

For the mojo
2 whole garlic heads
2 tsp chipotle en adobo
, finely chopped
200ml olive or vegetable oil
1 small handful
thyme sprigs, picked
1 t
sp flaky sea salt

First make the mojo. Break up the garlic heads, then smash each clove once or twice with a rolling pin, so you can peel them easily. Finely mince the peeled garlic in a small food processor, then transfer to a small, heavy-based pan with the rest of the mojo ingredients. Heat gently until the oil starts to bubble, then turn down the heat to its lowest setting and simmer very gently for half an hour (if you cook it too quickly, the garlic will burn and you will lose the flavour of the olive oil).

Meanwhile, char the vegetables either under a hot grill or on a griddle or dry frying pan. If using the grill, arrange them in a single layer on foil-lined trays, brush with two to three tablespoons of olive oil and season, then grill for 20-30 minutes, until blackened. If you are dry-roasting, you do not need to add oil, just fry them over a hot flame.

While the vegetables are charring, drain the ricotta, mix it with the lemon zest and a tablespoon of olive oil, then season to taste. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, then drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water to loosen the sauce later.

Once the vegetables are tender to the tip of a knife and nicely charred, chop them into bite-sized pieces (discard the aubergine stems) and tip into a large bowl. Stir through the basil and warm pasta, season, and dress with two to three tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary, then serve in warm bowls topped with the ricotta mix and with the mojo on the side for people to help themselves.

The simple flex

To make this vegan, omit the ricotta and instead toss the aubergine pasta with large chunks of golden ciabatta croutons and chopped toasted almonds.

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