Monday, February 25, 2013

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma
(Spaghetti with Eggplant and Basil)
serves 4


1 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for cooking pasta
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and micro-planed
1/4 to 1 teaspoon dry red pepper flakes, to taste
1 14 ½ - ounce cans crushed tomatoes and juice, San Marzano prefered
1 pound pasta, your choice
½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher or sea salt, to taste

*A salted, dry ricotta cheese; available at some supermarkets, Italian markets, and specialty foods stores.


1.  Place eggplant cubes in a colander over a dish or bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt to reduce bitterness, let drain for about 20 minutes.  Rinse with cold water to remove excess salt and pat dry, set aside.

2.  Meanwhile,  heat  1 tablespoon of olive oil to a heavy, large skillet and heat oil over high heat. Working in 3 batches, cook eggplant until browned on all sides, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil for each batch as needed, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove each batch as they cook to a plat.  When the last batch finishes cooking remove the sauteed eggplant  from the skillet to a holding plate.

3.  Return the skillet to the stove and  heat 2 tablespoons oil  in it over medium heat.  Add the chopped onions and micro-planed garlic and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and the tomatoes including their juice.  Cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 15 minutes.  add the removed, cooked eggplant and the tomato sauce to the skillet and stir to combine and reheat.  Lower the heat to keep the sauce warm.

4.  Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti al dente according to package directions, about 10 minute. Drain reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.  

5.  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Add the spaghetti and basil to sauce and toss to coat.   If the sauce seems too tight (dry) add the reserved pasta cooking water, a little at a time, until the pasta is as loose (wet) as you prefer.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer pasta to bowl; top with ricotta salata and serve.

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