If only more vegetables were as wonderfully meaty and smoky as eggplant, I might be willing to stick to a vegetarian diet more often. As it is, when eggplants are in season in the summer, I will substitute meat for eggplant at least one night per week. Generally, my vegetarian meal will consist of pasta with eggplant, and there is no greater eggplant pasta dish than pasta alla norma. Upon tasting this rich pasta, you will swear that there must be pancetta or prosciutto in it, but that will just be the eggplant talking.
Pasta alla Norma
- 1 eggplant, peeled in alternating strips to make a "zebra" pattern and cubed
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt plus salt to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Ground pepper, to taste
- 12 oz. penne pasta
- 1 handful of basil leaves
- Grated ricotta salata cheese, for serving
- Place the eggplant in a colander. Toss eggplant with 1 tbsp salt and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Rinse eggplant with water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant cubes and cook until browned on all sides, about three minutes. Remove eggplant with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add tomatoes, pepper flakes, pepper, and a pinch of salt to skillet and simmer until slightly thickened, about ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted, boiling water according to package directions.
- When the pasta has two minutes longer to cook, add the eggplant and basil to the skillet. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Drain pasta and stir it into the skillet.
- Serve pasta in bowls topped with grated ricotta salata.