Rigatoni alle Melanzane (Rigatoni Pasta with Eggplant Sauce)

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Recipe from Martin Gonzalez, chef/owner

Acqua Al 2

322 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter




Photograph by Alicia Santistevan


The original Acqua Al 2 restaurant opened in 1978 in Florence, just steps away from that city’s bustling Piazza della Signoria. Years later, traveler-turned-chef Martin Gonzalez brought this Italian gem stateside after being inspired by the restaurant’s Tuscan charm. Acqua Al 2 San Diego brings the same creative flavors and warm hospitality that made the Florence restaurant famous. It serves the same menu as the original restaurant.

Rigatoni alle Malanzane is chef/owner Martin Gonzalez’ favorite dish on Acqua Al 2’s menu. Just a few ingredients and a few easy steps and within an hour dinner is served. Gonzalez stresses the importance of cooking the pasta a couple minutes short of al dente and then transferring the pasta into the sauce to finish cooking for a minute. Also, he says, don’t drizzle olive oil on your pasta before you put it in the sauce. The olive oil keeps the flavors of the sauce from absorbing into the noodles.

Rigatoni alle Melanzane (Rigatoni Pasta with Eggplant Sauce)

Serves 4


13 ounces rigatoni pasta (De Cecco)

Vegetable oil for frying

1 large eggplant, diced into just-under 1-inch pieces (2 cm.)

2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup mozzarella cheese, medium diced

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

Salt to taste

Basil leaves for garnish


1. Cook rigatoni in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. (Drain the pasta 2 minutes before being completely cooked — read instructions for the cooking time. If, for example, package says 8 minutes cook for 6 minutes.)

2. While the rigatoni is cooking, heat the oil in a deep frying pot. Fry the eggplant until golden. Transfer the eggplant on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

3. In a large pan, cook the eggplant with the tomato sauce for approximately 30 minutes. 

4. Transfer the rigatoni and the tomato sauce with eggplant into a sauté pan. Stir in the mozzarella cheese until melted. 

5. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and mix well until the sauce gets thick (approximately 1 minute).  

6. Serve hot and garnish with basil leaves.

Categories: Food & Drink