Friday, May 12, 2023

Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato, Basil, and Cheese

Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato, Basil, and Cheese
Pasta Sorta Norma
Adapted from Rachel Eats by Rachel Roddy

Inspired by, but not, Pasta Alla Norma, a dish typical to Catania in Sicily

This was my favorite new dish of summer 2022; I have already made it about a million times. When I’m making it for 2 (which is, essentially, always), I use 1 Italian eggplant (about 8 ounces), but I do not change the amount of tomatoes.

I prefer the pecorino Romano cheese here over the Parmesan or ricotta salata.

Serves 4

1 eggplant (I use 1 small Italian, not Japanese, eggplant  weighing about 8 ounces.)

Extra virgin olive oil.

2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thick slices

400g tinned plum tomatoes, roughly chopped


Fresh basil (If you don't have fresh basil, do not substitute dried; just skip it.)

Pecorino Romano, or Parmesan, or ricotta salata 

Short pasta - penne works well. (I make 3 ounces of pasta per person for a dinner portion, and, I think, this is very generous, but I know a lot of people make 4. For a starter portion, use no more than 2 ounces per person.)

Cut the spiky cap from the eggplant, and then cut the eggplant into 1 cm thick slices. Cut the slices into 1 cm cubes, first cutting in one direction, then perpendicular in the other. (A centimeter is slightly more than 1/4 of an inch.)

Cover the bottom of a frying pan with 1 cm of olive oil, and warm over a medium/high flame. Once the oil is quite hot, add a single layer of eggplant, and cook until tender and golden, then remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate. If all the eggplant isn’t cooked, continue cooking the eggplant in batches until it is all done.

You should still have some olive oil in the pan; if not, add some more. You want about 4 tablespoons. Once the olive oil has cooled a little, add the garlic and cook until lightly gold and fragrant – do not let it burn, or it will be bitter.

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often and pressing gently with the back of a wooden spoon, until thick and saucy but not dry. Add salt to taste. Add the eggplant cubes to the tomatoes, cook for another minute or so, then pull from the heat, and STILL OFF THE HEAT add a handful of fresh torn basil leaves. Do not substitute dried basil. If you don't have fresh, leave it out.

Meanwhile, having brough  a large pan of water to the boil, add salt, stir, and then add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain or scoop the pasta and add to the sauce and stir.  Add cheese and stir before serving rather than sprinkling it over the pasta after it is plated.  

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