I made this for dinner last night, and it was so good! I substituted bowtie pasta for the penne, and tried to cut the amounts in half, but we still have tons of leftovers. I would also recommend peeling the eggplant…even though it looks prettier with the skin on, it seemed a bit too tough for my taste. The basil really added a fresh taste to the dish. I thought it tasted great with or without the ricotta cheese, so if you’re iffy about buying a container of ricotta for this, you could easily skip it. I’m left with a lotta ricotta now, although I did use a little for dessert. I adapted a recipe for cannoli cream from Giada’s new book. You basically whip up some fresh cream with a little powdered sugar and cinnamon, fold in some ricotta, and use it as a topping for macerated fruit. I used sliced strawberries tossed with a little sugar and balsamic vinegar…yum!
Pasta Alla Norma
- 1 pound penne rigate
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain pasta; return to pot.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add eggplant to skillet; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until eggplant begins to release juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes (if bottom of pan browns too much, add a few tablespoons water, and scrape with a spoon).
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1/4 cup water to skillet; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Toss sauce and basil with pasta; gently reheat if necessary. Top each serving with a spoonful of ricotta, and garnish with more basil.
Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Ha! I made half the amount and it made 4 to 6 servings.)
Source: Everyday Food, September 2003