Pasta Alla Norma
1 lb spaghetti (or pasta of choice)
4 small eggplant, about 1½ lbs
2½ lbs fresh tomatoes, or two 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
¼ cup + 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, divided
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic
Splash of wine (optional)
Almond ricotta (next page)
• Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil to cook spaghetti.
• Prepare sauce: Rough chop 1 shallot and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Remove stem from tomatoes and chop them into ½'' chunks. Heat a large deep-sided skillet on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to hot pan. Sauté shallot until it starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, oregano and black pepper and stir until garlic just starts to brown. Deglaze pan with a splash of wine. Add tomatoes, salt and sugar and cook on medium heat until the sauce comes together and reduces a bit, about 10-15 minutes.
• While sauce is cooking, prepare and cook the eggplant. Turn oven on broil. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Remove stems from eggplant and cut into quarters lengthwise. Slice each quarter section into ¼'' thick slices. Add eggplant pieces to a bowl and toss with ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1½ teaspoons kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper until evenly coated. Spread eggplant out into one layer on the baking sheet. Broil until tops are browned, then flip with a spatula and brown the other side. Depending on your oven, this could take 5 minutes or 15 minutes. When both sides of eggplant are browned, remove from oven and set aside until sauce is ready.
• Once water has come to boil, add the spaghetti and reduce cooking time for al dente doneness by 1 minute according to the package instructions. Scoop spaghetti out of water using a pasta grabber or tongs, add directly to sauce and reduce heat to low. Or you can strain spaghetti in a colander, but first reserve some pasta water to loosen sauce if necessary. Add eggplant to the pan with sauce and spaghetti and toss everything together with tongs over low heat, cooking for about 1 minute until pasta is al dente. Use a little pasta water to loosen sauce if needed. Remove from heat and stir in fresh basil leaves.
• Serve immediately in bowls with more fresh basil, drizzle of extravirgin olive oil and top with dollops of almond ricotta.
• Store leftovers in a covered container, refrigerated, for up to 1 week. Reheat to serve.