so...i have a bit of a love affair with pasta. i mean, really i love all kinds of carbs (because who doesn't? let's be real). but pasta has a special place in my very big, food-filled heart. you can use to it make a dinner that feels gourmet, with a minimal amount of other ingredients, and throw it all together in about 30 minutes. and in the middle of the extremely humid, sticky, muggy nyc summer (i really don't think i can use too many adjectives to emphasize how gross it gets here), anything that can be cooked quickly without turning on an oven is what i'm making.
i'm not even going to lay this out like a standard recipe with a formal ingredients list and numbered direction steps, because it's so easy you really don't need any of that. just boil up some dried penne pasta according to the package instructions (make sure you put plenty of salt in that water), drain and set aside. if you want to make sure the pasta doesn't get all stuck to itself while it sticks, then put it into a large bowl and toss it with a little olive oil while it's still warm.
slice a large eggplant into circles, and toss them in a large mixing bowl with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano. start with about ¼ teaspoon of the dried seasonings, about a tablespoon of oil, and one teaspoon vinegar, taste the mixture, and then work your way up from there, adjusting to your palate or the amount of eggplant in your bowl (but that ratio should give you a pretty balanced marinade).
mix the marinade with the sliced eggplant and let everything sit together for about 5-10 minutes. while that's happening, start boiling your water for the pasta and get that cooking. once your pasta is on the stove, grill the eggplant (it only needs to cook about 3-4 minutes per side, so by the time your eggplant is done, your pasta will be ready to drain!).
slice your grilled eggplant into smaller pieces, if you want bite-sized chunks, and toss it with the warm, drained pasta, fresh basil and watercress (one small handful basil and two handfuls of watercress), freshly grated black pepper, and about 1/2 cup freshly grated romano cheese. and you're done! a dinner so easy you don't even really need a recipe, and it's absolutely delicious.
and if you're not into eggplant, it's easy to use the same seasonings and technique and just swap it for another summer vegetable (say, yellow squash or zucchini). enjoy!