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Pasta a la Norma

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 medium red onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
2 medium eggplants cut into medium dice
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound macaroni (rigatoni)
1/2 pound ricotta salata, coarsely grated ( or parmesan)
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
1/4 bunch mint, leaves chopped
Chili flakes, to taste

Bring 6 quarts water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
In a 12 to 14-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil until smoking. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until soft but not yet browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring regularly until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain well and pour the hot pasta into the pan with the eggplant mixture. Add ricotta salata and heat through.
Garnish with parsley, mint, chili flakes and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

From Mario Batali

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