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This dish, a riff on pasta alla Norma, is a current family favorite in Rach’s house. It’s made with eggplant and ‘nduja (basically a sausage paste from southern Italy), but you can substitute 2 tablespoons of Calabrian chili paste for a vegetarian version. Both will give the tomato sauce a smoky, spicy, delicious background flavor.
Pro Tip from Rach: When buying eggplant, firm and heavy is the way to go.
For more recipes that use ‘nduja, check out ‘Nduja Scampi and Linguini and Fennel-Cabbage Soup with ‘Nduja & White Beans.
- 2 firm medium eggplant, trim half the skin and slice lengthwise into planks, then batonsSalt3 tablespoons EVOO3 ounces ‘nduja (imported Italian or domestic, such as La Fortuna or LaTempesta1 small red onion, finely chopped2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved4 cloves garlic, chopped or thinly sliced1 jar passata (3 cups)A few leaves of basil, torn
Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta.
Arrange eggplant on kitchen towel, season with salt and let it drain well: top with another towel, roll and let stand 20 to 30 minutes to drain.
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Heat 2 tablespoons EVOO in large nonstick skillet, add the eggplant and brown and cook until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove, add remaining oil and ‘nduja and melt into the pan. Add onions and soften a couple of minutes, then add the cherry tomatoes, salt and garlic and cover to collapse tomatoes, 6 to 7 minutes, shaking skillet occasionally. Add passata and basil and drop pasta. Simmer sauce while pasta cooks.
Salt water liberally and cook pasta a minute less than package directions; reserve ½ cup water.
Add eggplant and pasta to sauce and combine. Adjust salt and add starchy cooking water, if necessary.
Serve pasta topped with cheese of choice and chopped parsley.