Fresh eggplant is the star in this delicious vegetarian pasta. The purple vegetable is pan-fried and seasoned with dried oregano. The sauteed eggplant acts as the base of the thick, tomato-y pasta sauce. A handful of aromatic basil and a liberal dusting of Italian cheese finishes off the pasta. This scrumptious dish is like eating a bowl of summer. To learn the technique,
2 large, firm eggplants
extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
optional: 1 dried red chili, crumbled
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, stems finely chopped, leaves reserved
1 teaspoon good herb or white wine vinegar
2 14-ounce cans of good-quality chopped plum tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh chopped tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried spaghetti
6 ounces salted ricotta, pecorino, or Parmesan cheese, grated
- Cut the eggplant into quarters lengthwise. If they've got seedy, fluffy centers, remove them and chuck them away. Then cut the eggplants across the length, into finger-sized pieces.
- Get a large nonstick pan nice and hot and add a little oil. Fry the eggplants in two batches, adding a little extra oil if you need to.
- Give the eggplants a toss so the oil coats every single piece and then sprinkle with dried oregano. Using a pair of tongs, turn the pieces of eggplant until golden on all sides. Remove to a plate and do the same with the second batch.
- When the eggplants are all cooked, add the first batch back to the pan—if using add the dried red chili.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add a little oil, the garlic, and the basil stems. Stir so everything gets evenly cooked, then add a swig of herb vinegar and the cans of tomatoes
- Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then taste and correct the seasoning. Tear up half the basil leaves, add to the sauce, and toss around.
- Meanwhile get the spaghetti into a pan of salted boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. When it's al dente, drain in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and put it back into the pan.
- Add the Norma sauce and a little of the reserved cooking water and toss together back on the heat. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, then divide between your plates by twizzling the pasta into a ladle for each portion. Any sauce left in the pan can be spooned over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining basil, grated cheese, and oil.
- Main Dishes, Pasta