If your Aunt Margaret was a vegetable she might be an Eggplant. You know what I mean right? She can’t sit by the window because of the draft but finds it far too warm everywhere else. Basically, a fusspot. Similarly, eggplant will whine and slump if treated badly. When undercooked eating eggplant is rather like chowing down on styrofoam. If overcooked, the only thing you will find in your bowl is rubbery skin.
But cook it well and eggplant will melt on your tongue as softly as the ricotta it is tossed with. My suggestion? Cook it hot and fast. Make sure your oil is hot enough that it doesn’t become a greasy sponge but rather quickly tenderizes and browns. Nonnas from Siciliy to Sorrento will thank you.
This classic Italian recipe, “pasta alla norma” always features ricotta, tomatoes, eggplant and pasta. The remaining details vary. Make it now when all the ingredients are fresh and available.
Pasta alla Norma(serves 2)
Over medium low heat and add one tablespoon of olive oil. When warmed, add chopped onion and sweat until translucent, abut 5 minutes. (You can start on the eggplant frying now). Once soft add chili flakes and cook for one minute. Add the can of tomatoes and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add a pinch of salt and cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally as the eggplant and pasta cooks.
While the onion is sweating you can start frying the eggplant. In a large skillet heat enough olive oil to thoroughly coat the pan over medium high heat. Fry eggplant in batches until browned on both sides, drain on paper towels.
Salt pasta water and cook pasta in boiling water until just under al dente. Drain and toss in the tomato sauce until al dente. Toss with eggplant and grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste. Roughly chop basil. Serve pasta topped with ricotta cheese and basil.