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Sicilian-Style Trennette with Eggplant, Olives, and Ricotta Salata

Updated February 23, 2016

This pasta is based on Sicily’s most famous pasta, pasta alla Norma, which is spaghetti with tomato sauce, eggplant, and ricotta salata. In Sicily, they say that the pasta looks like Mount Etna: the high mound of spaghetti is the mountain, the fried eggplant cubes in the tomato sauce are the lava rocks, and the ricotta salata grated over the top is the snow that caps the mountain almost year-round. Ricotta salata literally translates to “salted ricotta.” The cheese is conserved in salt, then aged until it is hard. Its firm texture and pungent, salty flavor make it ideal for grating over pasta. I use whole canned cherry tomatoes in this recipe instead of tomato sauce because I like their look and texture. In Sicily, they wouldn’t think of making this dish with any pasta except spaghetti, but I use trennette, a short hollow pasta shape—like penne, only with flat sides—because I think it’s easier to eat with the tomatoes and eggplant. If you can’t find trennette, penne or pennette (“little penne”) will work fine. And if you’re a purist, use spaghetti.

Serves4

Cooking Time30 min

Cooking Time - Text30

Cooking Methodsauteeing

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 30 minutes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationvegetarian

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturecheesy, garlicky, herby, savory

Type of Dishdry pasta

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces trennette or pennette pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, grated or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 14-ounce can cherry San Marzano tomatoes, drained (about 1½ cups)
  • 7 ounces drained roasted eggplant or fried eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces if large (about 1 cup)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 small pitted black olives
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Wedge of ricotta salata, for grating

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