Eggplant and pasta, pasta and eggplant. Yep, they belong together.
8 medium vine tomatoes
Flaky sea salt
Few pinches caster (superfine granulated) sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 medium-sized eggplants (aubergines), sliced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Few pinches chilli flakes, or 1 crushed dried bird’s eye chilli
400g (14 oz) rigatoni or similar pasta
Handful basil leaves
Freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving
1 Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Line a shallow ovenproof tin (I use a Swiss roll tin/jellyroll pan) with baking (parchment) paper. Cut tomatoes in half and arrange in tin cut side uppermost. Sprinkle with sea salt and caster sugar. Grind over a little black pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast for 20-30 minutes until collapsing and charring around the edges. Cool.
2 Heat a ridged grill pan or sturdy frying pan (skillet) over medium-high heat. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil (you will probably need to do this in batches, so just brush as many as will fit in the pan without overlapping). Cook on both sides until a good golden brown. Transfer to a plate as they are done and season with salt. Cook remaining eggplants. When all the eggplants are done, set aside 2 large fleshy slices and cut the rest into quarters. Finely chop the 2 fleshy slices.
3 Put 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes in a medium frying pan (skillet) set over a low heat. As soon as the garlic starts to colour, stir, and let it cook just until it turns a pale biscuit colour. Add the chopped eggplant, turn off the heat under the pan, and squish the eggplant into the oil.
4 Gently squeeze tomatoes over a bowl, removing the skin and letting pulp and juices fall into a bowl. Squeeze skins together over bowl to get the last of the juices. Add all the tomato pulp and juice to the pan and stir it in but don’t break up the tomato pulp. Add a few pinches of salt.
5 Cook pasta in the normal way – in a saucepan of plenty well-salted water until al dente, then drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Bubble up eggplant and tomato sauce, and once nice and hot, add the reserved pasta water and bubble up again. Add drained pasta to pan, along with basil, and shake pan until pasta is coated with sauce. Toss gently, top with reserved eggplant and serve with cheese.