This classic sauce is ideally made with the smaller Italian variety of eggplant which are at their best at the end of summer. They have fewer seeds and tend to be less bitter.
- Kosher salt
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 pounds Italian eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
- 1 cup fresh ricotta
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high. Add enough vegetable oil to film the bottom of the pan. Add half of the eggplant and season with salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and almost tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. Carefully pour the oil out of the skillet and wipe it clean with a paper towel.
Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook until lightly golden, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup water. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes, adding the eggplant cubes in the last 5 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta until al dente. When the sauce and pasta are cooked, remove the pasta with a spider directly to the sauce and add the basil leaves. Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to coat the pasta in the sauce, adding a little of the pasta water if it seems dry.
Off the heat, sprinkle with the grated Grana Padano cheese and toss to combine. Dollop the ricotta on top to warm it through and serve immediately.