‘I love aubergine in all its incarnations. You can roast it over a naked flame to make an easy but exotic baba ganoush dip, cut it in thin strips, chargrill it and drizzle it with basil oil and clumps of buffalo mozzarella, or go 1970s and stuff it with a tomato and aubergine sauce, then add breadcrumbs and Parmesan and stick in a hot oven for a glorious supper dish. I find it as satisfying and mouth-watering as the slowest-cooked meats’

Thomasina Miers

Aubergine and ricotta sauce, Sicilian style

Extract from Marcella Hazan’s – The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Published in 1995 by Macmillan

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 medium to large aubergine, about 450g-675g (1lb-1½lb)
Salt
Vegetable oil
6tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1½tsp chopped garlic
500g (1lb 2oz) tinned Italian plum tomatoes, drained and cut into narrow strips
Freshly ground black pepper
3tbsp grated Romano pecorino
45g (1½oz) fresh ricotta
8-10 fresh basil leaves
450g-675g (1lb-1½lb) pasta

Recommended pasta

I love this sauce with ruote di carro, ‘cartwheels’, and it is also good with fusilli or rigatoni. Nor can you go wrong with plain old spaghetti.

Method

Cut off the aubergine’s green spiky cap. Peel the aubergine and cut it into 4cm (1½in) cubes. Put the cubes into a colander set over a basin or large bowl, and sprinkle them liberally with salt. Let the aubergine steep thus for about an hour, so that the salt can draw off most of its bitter juices.
Scoop up a few of the aubergine cubes and rinse them in cold water. Wrap them in a dry tea towel, and twist it to squeeze as much moisture as possible out of them. Spread them out on another clean, dry tea towel, and proceed thus until you have done all the aubergine cubes.

Put enough vegetable oil in a large frying pan to come 1cm (1⁄2in) up the sides of the pan, and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is quite hot, slip in as many of the aubergine pieces at one time as will fit loosely in the pan. If you can’t fit them all at once, fry them in two or more batches. As soon as the aubergine feels tender when prodded with a fork, transfer it with a slotted spoon or spatula to a cooling rack, or to a platter lined with kitchen paper, to drain.

Pour off the oil and wipe the pan clean with kitchen paper. Put in the olive oil and the sliced onion and turn the heat to medium-high. Sauté the onion until it becomes coloured a light gold, then add the chopped garlic and cook for only a few seconds, stirring as you cook. Add the strips of tomato, turn up the heat to high, and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the aubergine, a few grindings of pepper, stir and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for just 1 or 2 minutes more, stirring once or twice. Taste and correct for salt.

Cook and drain the pasta. Toss it with the aubergine sauce, add the grated Romano, the ricotta and the basil leaves, torn into shreds. Toss again, mixing all ingredients thoroughly into the hot pasta, and serve at once, with grated Parmesan on the side.

 * Subscribe to Country Life and up to £50