Pasta Alla Norma with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

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My son is learning about eating a balanced diet in Cub Scouts. He had to plan a balanced menu and then compare it to his actual diet. When he was sharing the “healthy food items” from his actual menu with his den, he included slow-roasted tomatoes. His den leader- who happens to be a chef- had such a huge reaction: “Wow! Who made slow-roasted tomatoes? They are so good for you!”. I was so proud. 🙂

I had made this Sicilian dish in the past and enjoyed it, so I knew that this time-consuming version would be worth it. This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I nearly doubled the tomatoes, eggplant, and the ricotta salata- I prefer to have TONS of veggies on my pasta. 🙂 Fabulous!!

Time: 3-4 hours, mostly unattended

Yield: 4 servings

  • 50 grape or cherry tomatoes, depending on size, cut in half
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • 2-3 thyme sprigs, optional
  • 4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
  • 1 3/4 pounds small to medium eggplants, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 2/3 to 1 pound fresh pasta (I used fresh pappardelle)
  • 4 to 6 ounces ricotta salata, grated, diced small, or broken into small chunks
  • 20 basil leaves, torn
  1. Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Put the tomatoes in one layer in an ovenproof pan and drizzle them liberally with oil, then salt and sprinkle with thyme sprigs, if using. Roast for about an hour, then stir and roast for another half-hour or so.
  2. After the 1 1/2 hours, when tomatoes are shriveled, add garlic, turn down heat to 225 degrees and roast for at least another hour. They should not cook completely dry; if they threaten to overcook, turn the heat down or pull them out. Fish out the garlic if you like. (I left it in!)
  3. In a large cast iron skillet, sizzle the eggplant in about 1/4 inch of oil over medium heat. (cover with a splatter screen!) The oil should bubble steadily. Turn eggplant as needed until nicely browned, about 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels, and when cool enough to handle, cut roughly into strips.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  5. Add the eggplant to the tomatoes and stir. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water.
  6. Cook the pasta and warm a serving bowl. At the bottom of the bowl put half the sauce and half the ricotta salata. Add the pasta and the remaining sauce, cheese and basil and toss.

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