Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pasta Alla Norma

Adapted from Jamie Oliver, via Jamie's Italy


2 large, firm eggplants
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
dried red chili flakes (optional)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
large fresh bunch of basil, stems chopped, leaves reserved
1 tsp. good herb or white wine vinegar
2 14 oz. cans of good-quality chopped tomatoes
sea salt, and pepper (to taste)
1 lb. dried spaghetti (i used the fresh refrigerated kind)
salted ricotta or pecorino or parmesan cheeses, grated (whichever you have on hand or prefer)

Slice the eggplants and cut into quarters lengthwise. If they have seedy, puffy centers, remove them and throw away. Cut the eggplants across the length into finger-width pieces. Fry up the eggplant (in two-three batches) with some olive oil, but dont let them get too greasy. Add some dried oregano and salt, and brown them on all sides until they are soft and golden. Once you finish with the first batch, remove to a plate and continue the process till all of the eggplant is cooked.

Once the eggplant is done, add the first batch to a larger pot (something that will hold the sauce, and pasta). Add a bit of the dried chili flakes, if you like. Turn the heat to medium and add a little oil, the garlic, and the basil stems. Stir so everything gets evenly cooked, and add a bit of the vinegary and the cans of tomatoes (which you can leave chunky like I did, or whir up in a food processor to make it smoother). Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Tear up half of the asil leaves, add to the sauce, and stir it around.

Meanwhile, get your spaghetti boiling in salted water and cook according to the instructions. When it's al dente, drain it in a colander and reserve a bit of the pasta water in case you need to add it to the sauce. Add the spaghetti to the pot of norma sauce and toss it around...add a bit of the cooking water if desired, and make sure it is well combined. Adjust the seasoning. Heap onto plates (or in bowls, as I prefer). Sprinkle with the remaining basil leaves and the cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Twirl on a fork, and enjoy.