If you're lucky enough to have a garden, or even a window box with kitchen herbs, this is a delicious pasta sauce to celebrate them. Although the main focus of the dish is eggplant and ricotta salata, a surprising mixture of fresh herbs is what gives the sauce its vibrancy and freshness.
Some herbs - basil and thyme - go in at the start of cooking. But the real gems are simply chopped and tossed on top of the finished pasta - mint, parsley, and more basil. Recipe after the jump:
PASTA A LA NORMA
Recipe by Mario Batali at foodnetwork.com
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 medium red onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
2 medium eggplants, cut into medium dice
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound rigatoni
1/2 pound ricotta salata, coarsely grated
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
1/4 bunch mint, leaves chopped
Chili flakes, to taste
Bring 6 quarts water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil until smoking. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until soft but not yet browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring regularly until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain well and pour the hot pasta into the pan with the eggplant mixture. Add ricotta salata and heat through.
Garnish with parsley, mint, chili flakes and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.