Sunday, November 23, 2014

Did I already tell you about this?

While we patiently wait for our self-adhesive trompe-l'oeil wall paper to arrive, we're keeping ourselves busy by eating as much as humanly possible. While I was at the marché this morning, I picked up three gloriously small eggplants and nearly a bushel of over-priced, spectacularly delicious cherry tomatoes.

(Is something over-priced if it's incredibly expensive but quite possibly worth every penny? To be investigated...) 

It seemed only sensible that we'd make another attempt at Pasta Alla Norma, given the season and the available ingredients. While we were in Burgundy, I decided to resurrect my recipe for pasta alla norma (I've made this one other time, with decent but not resounding success; inspired by a pasta alla norma that one of my dearest *italian* friends made for me in Paris a few years ago. Hers was so vastly superior to mine that I decided to gracefully accept my mediocrity, and resolved never to make it again.) I was initially tempted by Mark Bittman's "Pasta Alla Norma, My Way" article, but the deal was sealed when I then received an email from "Tasting Table", another recipe site I follow and they were doing Pasta Alla Norma too! The stars had spoken-- it was time to give it another chance-- even if it would never hold a candle to Martina's version.

However, because I'm a difficult person, I decided to mix-and-match both recipes to include the elements I liked from both. The results were delicious, but I suspect that you could just do one or the other and you'd come away happy.

Mark says this on the subject...  

Tasting Table says this on the subject...

And then what I did was this, which is an amalgamation of the two... 

Pasta alla Norma, my way! 

30 cherry tomatoes, depending on size, cut in half 
Olive oil
Thyme sprigs, if you have them
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
small-ish eggplants, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 lb. short-cut pasta, (such as caserecci or campanelle)
2-3 ounces ricotta salata  
20 anise-y basil leaves, torn

Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Put the tomatoes in one layer in an overproof pan and drizzle them liberally in oil, then salt and sprinkle with thyme sprigs, if using. Roast for about an hour, then stir and roast for another half-hour or so. When tomatoes are shriveled, add garlic, turn down heat to 225 degrees and roast for at least another hour. They should not cook completely dry; if they get too cooked, turn the heat down or pull them out. You can remove the garlic if you want... 
    Sizzle the eggplant in about 1/4 inch of oil over medium heat. The oil should bubble steadily. Place the cubed eggplant into the pan, and cook as needed until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels...
      Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Add the eggplant to the tomatoes and stir. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce, and cook together and warm a serving bowl. At the bottom of the bowl put half the sauce and half the ricotta salata. Add the pasta and the remaining sauce, cheese and basil and toss.

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