by Bryan Christopher
2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 cloves garlic*
2 tsp salt
crushed red pepper, to taste
1 big can of diced tomatoes or 2 cups Christopher Sauce or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
12 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 pound roughly-grated ricotta salata**
1 box short, tubular pasta, like penne or rigatoni
*If you're using a premade sauce (that already includes garlic) instead of tomatoes, consider reducing or omitting the garlic
**Ricotta salata is salted sheep's milk ricotta cheese. It's much more firm than regular ricotta. Substituting ricotta produces a smooth, creamy sauce that's different in texture but equally raucous. Another option is to substitute another firm, salty cheese like pecorino romano.
1. Placed the diced eggplant and salt in a strainer with a bowl underneath, then put something heavy on top. Let the eggplant sit for an hour. During this time, the salt will pull the bitter juices from the eggplant pieces into the bowl underneath the strainer.
2. Fill the bottom of a saucepan with 1/4" of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot (test it), add the eggplant.
3. Stir the eggplant frequently as it fries, being careful not to break the pieces. Add more oil if necessary. When the eggplant has turned golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towel to dry.
**Note: now would be a good time to begin boiling your pasta water
4. Discard the vegetable oil from the pan. Wipe the pan clean and return it to medium heat.
5. Add 2 tbs olive oil to the now empty saucepan. Just before the oil begins to smoke, add the garlic. As the garlic begins to brown, add the crushed red pepper and let simmer for 30 seconds.
6. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce thickens, 5-10 minutes.
7. When the sauce has reached its desired consistency, add the eggplants and fresh basil and let the sauce simmer on low heat for 5 more minutes.
8 Serve the sauce over pasta and garnish with grated cheese and additional basil.
This was originally posted on Bryan Christopher's blog. He was kind to share it with Four Leaf Farm.