Pasta Alla Norma
1/2 pound good-quality rigatoni, paccheri or calamarata pasta
2 baby to midsize eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch lengthwise
10 Roma or on-the-vine tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Regular olive oil for frying (or use air-fried method)
1/4 cup white or rosé wine
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Pot large enough for boiling pasta
Frying pan for the eggplant (or sheet tray with rack, if air frying)
Strainer or large slotted spoon.
Lay out the slices of eggplant and generously salt, allowing moisture to come to the surface. Allow to sit for 30 to 90 minutes.
Wipe off the moisture and salt with a paper towel.
Cook eggplant with either the air-fry method or the shallow-fry method. Hold the slices in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven.
Set the pot of water to high heat
In the saucepan, add 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. With a pinch of salt, simmer the garlic, stirring or angling the pan for full submersion. Just when the color of the garlic begins to change, turn off the heat and slowly add the wine, stirring to combine. Once the temperature has dropped, as indicated by the end of potential splattering, return the pan to medium heat, add the halved tomatoes and cover the pot.
Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove the lid, break up any large pieces of tomato with a wooden spoon and continue to cook at a moderately high simmer.
Salt your pasta water generously, add the pasta and set a timer for 2 minutes shy of the shortest cooking time on the box.
When the timer goes off, drain and transfer the molto al dente pasta to the sauce. Cook for the remaining 2 minutes. If the sauce seems too watery, add 1 heaping tablespoon of flour to the sauce, stir well and simmer for an additional 45 seconds.
Add three-fourths of the cheese to the pot and stir well.
Line two warmed plates with the oven-warmed eggplant slices and scoop the pasta on top. Finish with the remaining cheese and fresh basil leaves, if desired.