A wonderful friend of mine, Francesca (who lives in beautiful Palermo), gave me this delicious recipe for Pasta alla Norma...
Ingredients (serves 4):
450–500 grams of spaghetti (or any other long pasta)
3 eggplants (as fresh as possible, without any bruises)
Olive oil for frying the eggplant
Tomato sauce (your own recipe, or see below)
6–10 basil leaves
200 grams of crumbled ricotta salata (salted ricotta) which is what
makes this recipe authentic, available in the best Italian groceries.
Cut the eggplants into fine slices after cutting off the stems (if you prefer you could also dice them up). Spread the slices in layers on a cutting board and cover each layer with salt. Place the board at an angle in the dishrack to allow the liquid to run directly into the sink. Cover the eggplants with a weight (for instance a pot filled with water) and leave standing for two hours.
Meanwhile prepare the tomato sauce. Fry an onion and two cloves of garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a large can of tomatoes (preferably imported from Italy) or 700 grams of diced fresh tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for approximately 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Once the sauce has thickened, pass it through a grinder...or a "blender" if you’re not Italian ;)
Pour the sauce back into the pan and reduce for another 5 minutes.
After the required time, rinse and dry the eggplant slices. Cover them lightly in flour to prevent the vegetable from soaking up oil. Boil the water for your pasta and warm up the tomato sauce if necessary. Meanwhile fry the eggplant slices in hot olive oil (about 400°F/205°C) a few at a time, about two minutes on each side. Wipe off the excess oil from the slices and keep them warm.
When the pasta is ready (al dente!), place it in a large serving bowl. First add the cheese; mix well before adding the tomato sauce, the basil and the eggplant. Serve right away.
Fruit and vegetable shopping at an Italian market