Pasta alla Norma

Serves 2-3 as a main dish

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
pinch of red hot chili flakes
1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed
8 ounces spaghetti
1.5 ounces ricotta salata *
handful of fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400° F.  On a baking sheet, toss the eggplant cubes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the dried oregano, sea salt and some freshly ground pepper.  Roast for about 25 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for your pasta.

Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large saucepan or skillet.  Add the grated garlic and gently cook for about 1 minute.  Add the chili flakes and the crushed tomatoes (I like to just crush them with my hands). Simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered.  (Start boiling your spaghetti at this point. Don't overcook it.)  Add the roasted eggplant to your tomato mixture and simmer for 5 minutes, covered. 

Remove the spaghetti from the pot and put it right in the eggplant tomato mixture.  Toss well.  Add torn fresh basil leaves and some grated ricotta salata.  Turn out onto a serving platter and grate some more ricotta salata on top and tear some more basil leaves for the top.

* The traditional recipe calls for ricotta salata - a wonderful, dry salted ricotta that is very different from the usual grocery store version.  You can find this item in better grocery stores and Italian delis.  If you cannot find it at all, try substituting feta cheese.

The Italian Dish