Monday, November 16, 2009
Pasta Alla Norma
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as an appetizer
1 Medium sized Eggplant 3/4 inch dice
1/2 Medium sized Red Onion quartered and thinly sliced
1 Garlic Clove minced
5-6 sprigs Italian Parsley finely chopped
250 ml Whole Peeled Tomatoes gently blended (San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes)
2 servings Rigatoni (about 3 cups)
Ricotta Salata crumbled
Canola Oil (or Vegetable Oil)
3-4 shakes Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Start out by dicing the Eggplant, and covering it a generous coating of salt. Let the Eggplant sit for 20-30 minutes on a paper towel to let some of the juices come out. Salting the Eggplant will make it taste better and allow it to fry easier.
Bring 2.5 quarts of water to a rolling boil, and add salt to the boiling water until it tastes like the sea. Once you dice the Eggplant and have your water heating, you will have time to prep all the rest of the ingredients. Gently break apart the whole tomatoes in a blender on pulse, or simply by using your hands if you don't want to get your blender dirty. It doesn't matter if there are a few chunks left in your tomato puree, it will taste just fine.
Once you have your onion, garlic, and parsley chopped and ready to go, heat up some canola oil in a small sauce pan over medium to high heat. The oil should be hot, but not smoking. If you sprinkle some flour in the oil, it should bubble or fry up on contact with the oil. Before you start cooking,make sure you have everything ready to go. Your ingredients should be chopped and prepped, pasta water should be salted and boiling, and your canola oil should be heated. Your stove top should look like this.
Dust the Eggplant with flour and fry in Canola oil for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned, and let Eggplant dry on some paper towels. You may need to do 2-3 batches. Cooking tip! When cooking with high heat use a vegetable oil or other oil with a high smoke point, do not use Olive Oil, it will burn, and fill your kitchen with smoke!
Put the Rigatoni into the boiling water. Be sure to check the suggested cooking time, but do not rely on it, we want to slightly undercook the pasta, and finish off the cooking in our pasta sauce (my pasta called for 12 minutes cooking time, I removed it from the boiling water after 10.5 minutes). After starting the Rigatoni, heat up a large saute pan with a generous coating of Olive Oil over medium/low heat. Cooking tip! When cooking with low or medium heat, use Olive Oil, it generally tastes better than vegetable oils, and is better for you! The oil should not be smoking, but there should be some sizzle when you add the ingredients. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1/3 of the parsley. Heat over medium to low heat for 1-2 minutes to bring out the aromas of the ingredients.
Add the Red Onion, and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes or until the Red Onion is slightly softened.
Add the Tomato puree, toss in the fried Eggplant, add 1/2 of remaining parsley, and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Check the Rigatoni to see if it is done. It should be Al dente or still offering resistance to the bite, but cooked through. You can also check by cutting into a piece. There should still be a faint white ring on the inside of your pasta, but it should not go all the way around.
Once the Rigatoni is cooked Al dente, remove it from the pasta water, but do not discard the pasta water!!! Toss the rigatoni directly into the saute pan with the sauce, do not cool off the pasta in cold water, place it directly into the pasta sauce to finish cooking. Add 1-2 ladles full of pasta water to the sauce, and some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to help the pasta finish cooking, and help the sauce bind to the pasta. This is a very important step, and the secret to making a great pasta dish. The starch from the pasta water along with the fat from the cheese will help to bind the sauce to the pasta.
Toss the pasta in the sauce and let the sauce reduce for 1-2 minutes. Lightly drizzle with Olive Oil, and crumbled Ricotta Salata and the remaining parsley.
Serve as an appetizer or as a main dish with a simple tossed salad