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A Spicy Pasta Recipe with Eggplant, Capers, and Mint

Chef and Author Viola Buitoni shares a piquant pasta recipe from her cookbook, Italy by Ingredient.

10:00 AM EDT on September 18, 2023

Spicy Pasta with Eggplant, Capers, and Mint.

Eggplant, capers, and mint are a felicitous yet ubiquitous flavor combination whose parentage is impossible to attribute. I can't consciously call this recipe mine, but I can call it accessible and joyful. I like to use Japanese eggplants because they're virtually seedless and can be cut in just-the-right-size wheels, but feel free to use other kinds and slice them into manageable-size bites.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We have added the video below of Chef Buitoni's making this dish in the kitchen of Appetito's Editor-in-Chief Andrew Cotto. The complete production was provided by ProdCo+.

Spicy Pasta with Eggplant, Capers, and Mint

Spicy Pasta with Eggplant, Capers, and Mint

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Viola Buitoni


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 3 Tbsp 3 capers packed in salt

  • 1 1 garlic clove

  • 1 1 Japanese eggplant (see headnote)

  • 4 tablespoons 4 extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons 2 tomato concentrate (or paste)

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 loosely packed mint leaves

  • salt as needed

  • Red chili flakes

  • 1 pound 1 short pasta (like ziti or cavatelli)


  • Fill a pot with 3 quarts of water and cover it.
  • Set it over high heat to come to a boil.
  • Put the capers into a tea strainer and run under hot water to melt away all the visible salt.
  • Rinse well and leave to soak in warm water while you are readying the rest of the ingredients.
  • Peel the garlic clove and leave it whole.
  • Slice the eggplant as thinly as possible into rounds.
  • Pour 3 tablespoons of the oil into a frying pan large enough to contain the eggplant slices in a single layer and place it over medium heat.
  • Place a plate next to the stove and line it with a paper towel.
  • When the fragrance of oil hits your nostrils decisively, add the eggplant and pan fry until the slices become pliant and glossy.
  • Lift a slice from the oil with tongs and if it has some brown, caramelized spots, turn it over and panfry the other side.
  • Transfer the eggplant slices to the paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Drain the capers and toss them into the oil used to cook the eggplant.
  • Add the garlic clove, tomato concentrate and 6 or 7 mint leaves of mint then douse with 2 cups of hot water.
  • Season with chili to best suit your glee for heat.
  • Stir well to dilute the concentrate, turn the heat on to medium, and let simmer to reduce by about one-third.
  • Season the boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt, stir in the pasta, and cover the pot. Set a timer for 2 minutes shy of the suggested cooking time.
  • When the water starts to boil again, remove the lid and adjust the heat so that the water is at a lively but not rolling boil.
  • The sauce will be ready in the time it takes the pasta to cook. It should be loosely velvety in appearance, runny but not watery.
  • Sample the sauce and adjust the salt to your liking.
  • Return the eggplant to the pan.
  • When the timer goes off, fish the ziti out of the water with a handheld strainer and add them to the sauce, with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.
  • Raise the heat to the highest setting and toss and twirl the pasta for an additional minute or two to finish cooking.

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