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3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 medium purple eggplant, peeled and cut in one-inch dice
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 cups red bell pepper strips, approximately one-inch wide
2½ Tbs. kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. red chili flakes
1½ cups crushed tomatoes (Cento or other good quality preferred)
1 lb. rigatoni or other durum wheat pasta De Cecco brand recommended)
1 cup roughly chopped basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring approximately 2 gallons of water to a boil in a large pot.
Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to medium, and brown the cloves, about two minutes. Once they are brown, remove the cloves with a slotted spoon and discard.
Add the eggplant to the frying pan and cook, stirring frequently, until it turns a dark golden brown, six to eight minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggplant and put it on a dish. Add the remaining olive oil to the frying pan and heat.
Add the onion and peppers and cook until they start to caramelize and soften, six to eight minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon salt, pepper, chili flakes, and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
Add the remaining two tablespoons salt to the pot of boiling water and stir until dissolved. Drop in the rigatoni. Following the package directions, cook until the rigatoni is al dente, about 10 minutes.
Reserve 1½ cups of the pasta water for the sauce and then drain the pasta. Add the rigatoni, the eggplant, and the reserved pasta water to the pepper mixture and toss. Cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and add the basil.
Serve with Parmesan cheese and a dollop of ricotta cheese.