Pasta al Norma
2 medium eggplants, about 12 ounces each, cut in 1-inch cubes (I leave some of the peel on - I pare strips of peel off before I start slicing and dicing.)
⅔ - 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (2T reserved)
2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, very finely chopped (if you use fresh tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 30 sec - 1 min first and slide the peel off. I then work over a mesh strainer to remove as many seeds as I can and catch that juice!)
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup basil leaves, torn + several leaves cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
1 pound spaghetti
Crushed red chile flakes, to taste
2 ounces coarsely grated ricotta salata - or 1 cup ricotta
Place eggplant in a colander, salt generously, set colander over a bowl and let sit at room temperature about 2 hours to draw off excess liquid. Rinse eggplant and dry on paper towels.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high and sauté eggplant, in batches if necessary, until golden. Transfer to several thicknesses of paper towel. Pour off and reserve all but a fine slick of oil from the pan.
Reheat pan on medium, add tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are reduced and their liquid has evaporated. Fold in basil.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water.
Add pasta to tomato sauce. Return eggplant to pan and cook on low, mixing pasta with sauce ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, season with salt and chile if desired and moisten with some pasta water if needed.
Divide among plates or shallow bowls, scatter cheese and reserve basil on top and serve.