Recipes from Six Seasons: Rigatoni and Eggplant alla Norma
A recipe from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden
I may regret making this statement later, but I think rigatoni is my favorite pasta shape. Something about the way it carries sauce, its elegant toothsome quality, the ability to stack your fork high with noodles, it’s just so perfect. This recipe has everything you need for a well rounded bowl of pasta, and a really good excuse to buy two cheeses to snack on while you cook. Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than a weeknight serving bowl full to the brim with pasta ready to share.
Rigatoni and Eggplant alla Norma
Recipe Yield: 2-4 servings
1 medium globe eggplant (about ¾ pound), cut into 1/2 -inch-thick rounds, each cut across into ½-inch-wide strips
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Oracle Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
½ pound italian sausage (mild or hot), bulk or with casings removed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon dried chile flakes
8 ounces rigatoni
½ cup finely grated pecorino romano
½ cup crumbled ricotta salata cheese
Put the eggplant strips in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Leave for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours to draw out the excess moisture. When it's time to cook them, blot off excess moisture and excess salt from the surface with a paper towel and give them a gentle squeeze to really wring out the water.
Shape the sausage into 3 patties. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, flipping a few times, until gently browned on the outside and almost cooked on the inside, about 5 minutes total. Break up the sausage into bite-size chunks. Scoop the sausage out of the pan and set aside.
If the pan looks slightly dry, add another couple tablespoons of olive oil, bring up the heat to medium high, and add the eggplant in a single layer (cook it in batches if necessary). Cook the eggplant, turning the strips as they become browned on each side, until they’re fairly tender and nicely colored all over, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, and chile flakes and season with salt and a generous dose of black pepper. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the tomatoes break down a bit and the whole mess gets nicely juicy and saucy, another 6 to 8 minutes. Return the sausage to the pan.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt until it tastes like the sea. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente (1 minute shy of the time listed on the package). With a ladle or a measuring cup, scoop out about 1⁄2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the eggplant. Stir and cook for another minute or two so the pasta absorbs the flavors. Add the pecorino and toss. Taste and adjust with more salt, black pepper, or chile flakes, along with a few spoonfuls of the pasta water if needed to make the sauce cling to the pasta.
Pile into bowls, top with the ricotta salata, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.