Roasted Pasta alla Norma (Roasted Tomato, Eggplant and Garlic Pasta)
Ricotta salata sounds like the soft, creamy ricotta cheese that you bake into lasagna, but it’s actually a semi-hard cheese that’s salty and crumbly.
- 1 large whole eggplant
- 1 large head garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound cavatappi pasta, regular or whole wheat
- A large handful of fresh basil leaves (about 20 or so), torn into pieces
- 1/4 pound chunk ricotta salata cheese, crumbled or substitute 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
- Cut 4-5 slits on one side of the eggplant and place it slit-side-up on a baking sheet. Trim about an inch off the top of the head of garlic, just exposing the tops of the cloves inside. Place the garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle it with a little EVOO, wrap it up and place it in the oven alongside the eggplant. Roast them both for about 30-40 minutes, until the eggplant looks like a flat tire.
- When the eggplant and garlic only have about 15 minutes left to roast, put the grape tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle them with some EVOO and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the tomatoes to the oven and roast for about 15 minutes.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat with a lid on it and bring up to a boil. Once boiling, add some salt and cook the pasta to al dente (with a bite to it), according to the package directions. Right before draining the pasta, remove and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water.
- Once the eggplant, garlic and tomatoes are all roasted, remove everything from the oven. Split the eggplant open and scoop out all of the roasted flesh with a spoon, discarding the skin. Transfer the flesh to a large serving bowl, along with the roasted tomatoes.
- Squeeze out the roasted garlic flesh from the papery shell and add to the eggplant and tomatoes. With the back of a fork or a potato masher, smash up the eggplant, tomatoes and garlic until thoroughly combined. Add the torn basil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and the reserved pasta-cooking liquid to the bowl, stirring and smashing to combine.
- Add the pasta and toss until thoroughly coated. Divide the pasta between four serving bowls and top each one with some of the crumbled ricotta salata or a large dollop of the ricotta cheese. Serve with your favorite salad alongside.