Pasta Alla Norma (Baked Penne With Eggplant)

Total Time
1hr
Prep 15 mins
Cook 45 mins

Found at Tracey's Culinary Adventures adapted from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali. The success of this dish relies on the quality of the eggplant. Older, larger eggplant tend to hold bigger seed pockets and can be bitter, so look for small to medium sized eggplants, of any variety. If you cannot find ricotta salata, try a young pecorino or provolone.

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the penne and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes less than the instructions on the package. Strain the pasta and rinse under cold water until cool.
  3. Put the pasta in a large bowl and toss with 1 cup of the pasta sauce.
  4. Meanwhile, in a 12 inch sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking.
  5. Working in batches, sauté the eggplant slices, seasoning them with salt and pepper, turning once, until golden brown on both sides.
  6. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°F
  8. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil (I used cooking spray).
  9. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce.
  10. Top with half the bread crumbs, then add half the pasta. Arrange half of the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly, on top of the pasta.
  11. Dot about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce over the eggplant, and top with half of the pecorino and half of the basil.
  12. Top with the remaining pasta, arrange the remaining eggplant over the pasta, and dot with the remaining tomato sauce.
  13. Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino and basil, and then the remaining bread crumbs, and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  14. Bake for 45 minutes then let stand for 10 minutes.
  15. Grate ricotta salata (provolone or pecorino work too!) over individual portions before serving.