I truly believe Sicilians, more than anyone, worship the eggplant. Many regions of southern Italy and Mediterranean chefs cook with the purple jewel but, at least in my house, the eggplant ruled supreme. We fried them, baked them, roasted them, stewed them and pickled them. We grilled them and marinated them and made a sweet and sour stew out of them. Just mention the word “eggplant” to my brother and his eyes roll back in his head anticipating the pleasure he gets eating them.
We always slice and salt the eggplant, many say to draw the bitterness out of them. At the least, salting the eggplant draws out the water, which the eggplant is mostly made up of. This allows you to fry them without as much splatter. Other wise the hot oil will bubble and splatter and shoot at you like popcorn. This is a hearty dish and is simple to make. I fry the eggplant earlier in the day so I break up the work. Once they are prepared all you have to do is make a simple marinara sauce, cook the macaroni and combine everything together to make a delicious meal.
- 2 small or 1 medium eggplant
- peanut/olive oil for frying
- 1- 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- hand full of fresh basil
- 1 pound cavatelli
- salt & pepper to taste
Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds. Once they are cooked you can cut them into quarters. It’s just easier to handle whole. You don’t want the eggplant too thin, so they hold up in the sauce and don’t break up and dissolve. Salt the eggplant with kosher salt and layer them in a colander with a plate under them to drain. Leave for about an hour. You will notice a black liquid forming on the eggplant. Remove the liquid with a paper towel wiping the eggplant on both sides, and place on a plate.
In a large frying pan place about a quarter cup each of peanut oil and olive oil. Fry the eggplant about 2 minutes each side on medium heat until golden. Add more oil if the pan runs dry and fry all the eggplant. Place the cooked eggplant in a dish covered with paper towels to absorb most of the oil. Cover with additional paper towel and place in the refrigerator.
When the eggplant is cool, cut each round into quarters and place back on the paper towels until ready to use.
Fill a large 6 quart pot with water and add a tablespoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil.
While you’re waiting for the water to boil add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large frying pan. Place on medium heat. When the oil is hot add the chopped onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook till fragrant. Add the can of whole peeled tomatoes and mash in the pan with a potato masher or your fork to break up the whole tomatoes. Add the basil, a little bit of sugar, and salt and pepper. When the sauce begins to bubble turn the heat to low. By now your pot of water should be boiling. Add the cavatelli and stir.
At this point add the eggplant to the sauce and stir gently until combined. Cook the cavatelli till one minute less than the package suggest to cook. Drain and add to the eggplant sauce.
Cook for an additional minute or two, stirring to combine.
Serve the cavatelli with plenty of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiana cheese.