This dish begins with a tomato sauce containing eggplant and onion, which has simmered for 2 hours. The eggplant melts and infuses the sauce with a sweet, silky but very earthy flavor that’s difficult to place as eggplant. This sauce can be made ahead and frozen (as mine was). The recipe below will make twice the sauce you’ll need for a pound of pasta, so once you finish making the sauce, put half aside and use at a later time. Once the sauce is made, the dish goes quickly.
The addition of some delicate chicken sausage and ribbons of spinach make this a complete meal. The sausage is boiled for about 10 minutes, then allowed to rest a few minutes while the pasta cooks. The sausage is then cut into small pieces and added to the sauce. The spinach goes into the sauce just as the pasta is done, and the whole dish is showered with ricotta salata.
Eggplant and ricotta salata are a very happy marriage. If you’ve ever seen a recipe for “Pasta alla Norma” (don’t know the origin of the name), you’ve seen the combination. This is my version of Norma’s pasta, with eggplant that is so silky and melting, you’ll even please your guests who claim they don’t like eggplant.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Eggplant and Chicken Sausage
serves 4 (with enough sauce left for another batch)
1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced into 1″ cubes
1 small onion, coarsely diced
4 tbls olive oil
2 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, squeezed into a pulpy puree
1 lb chicken sausage, boiled for 10 minutes, then cut into 1″ pieces
10 oz fresh spinach leaves, cut into 1/2″ ribbons
ricotta salata for grating
salt and pepper to taste
In a dutch oven, heat olive oil, then add onion. Saute for a minute until translucent. Add eggplant cubes and saute for about 5 minutes, just until they begin to soften. Add tomatoes and reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer for 2 hours, until eggplant has melted and sauce is thick and rich. Taste and add salt.
Add sausage to sauce and simmer on low while pasta cooks.
When pasta is about 2 minutes shy of done, add spinach to sauce and let simmer until pasta is ready.
Toss in pasta and about a cup of pasta cooking liquid (the sauce will be quite thick and can use a little thinning at this point). Grate ricotta salata over the whole dish and drizzle with a bit more extra-virgin olive oil.