Ziti with Sicilian-Style Tomato Sauce

(4 votes)

1 small eggplant cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red bell pepper cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large garlic clove passed through garlic press
2 tablespoons tomato paste
29 ounces canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound ziti
freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

Look for ziti rigate, or ridged ziti - the chunky sauce will adhere better than it will to the smooth variety. The addition of eggplant adds hearty texture to the rich sauce and makes it distinctly Sicilian.

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Put a plate on top and weight it with a heavy can. Let drain for 1 hour, then rinse the eggplant, pat dry, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook over until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, the undrained tomatoes, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, the capers, and black pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes to reduce slightly and blend flavors. Add the basil, and keep warm while you cook the pasta. Cook the ziti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the ziti and place in a shallow serving bowl. Add the sauce, sprinkle with some grated cheese, and toss gently. Serve at once, with additional grated cheese to pass at the table.

4 servings

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