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Pasta Alla Norma


· 3 1/4 pounds (16 total) plum or Roma tomatoes, quartered

· 1/2 pound small sweet onions (such as cipollini), cut into 2-inch pieces

· 1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt

· 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

· 2 1/2 cups pure olive or canola oil

· 2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

· 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

· 1 pound uncooked penne rigate

· 1 1/2 ounces ricotta cheese


1. Combine tomatoes and onions in a large stockpot over medium heat. Cook, stirring until tomatoes begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are fully broken down and very soft, about 20-30 minutes.

2. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes and onions to a large bowl. Place a food mill over a stockpot. Pass tomatoes and onions through food mill into stockpot, discarding tomato skins and solids. Stir in salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 7 cups, about 45 min-1 hour. Stir in basil leaves; cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, and cover to keep warm.

3. While tomato sauce cooks, heat oil in a high-sided skillet over medium-high, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups eggplant to skillet in a single layer. (Eggplant should be almost fully submerged in oil.) Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Fry, stirring occasionally, until eggplant cubes are golden brown and soft to the touch with a crispy exterior, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large plate to drain; reserve drained oil. Repeat with a second batch of eggplant and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Repeat with a third batch of eggplant and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Fry remaining eggplant, in batches if needed, adding 1/8 teaspoon salt to each batch.

4. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions for al dente. Drain. Add pasta to tomato sauce and stir to coat. Fold in fried eggplant and drained oil.

5. To serve, transfer pasta to a rimmed platter or large shallow bowl. Top with ricotta, and garnish with fresh basil leaves.