A classic Italian recipe, also known as pasta alla norma, ziti with roasted eggplant and ricotta cheese is a quick and impressive pasta dish.
The written post, with tips and photos have been updated since originally posted all the way back in 2012!
I have had the pleasure to receive an advanced copy of legendary author, Lidia Bastianich cookbook titled Lidia’s Favorite Recipes.
You know her famous son who assists in judging one of my favorite television shows, Master Chef. This talented chef has cooked alongside Julia Child and is absolutely fascinating. I adore her rustic, fresh and honest focus on Italian food and so excited to cook one of her recipes.
Also known as Pasta Alla Norma
The first recipe that caught my eye was ziti with roasted eggplant and ricotta cheese. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables to roast as it becomes savory and caramelized and pairs perfectly with the creamy ricotta cheese.
This recipe is very similar to a classic recipe called pasta alla norma. Which, traditionally has fried eggplant and ricotta salata. A pressed, dried ricotta cheese that is shaved onto the pasta. However, the creaminess of ricotta cheese is so lovely in this recipe.
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
I have a recipe for making homemade ricotta cheese, which does take time but the process is pretty straight forward. I highly suggest you make a batch for this recipe. There is nothing like homemade ricotta cheese just waiting for roasted eggplant and sweet San Marzano tomatoes.
Or you can make this sweet dessert recipe called kanafe with the homemade ricotta cheese.
A Few Tips on Cooking with Eggplant
- When picking out an eggplant, look for the younger, smaller eggplants. They will have less seeds and be less bitter.
- Look for eggplant that has a smooth skin with no blemishes or bruises.
- The eggplant skin is not my favorite part, so I will peel most or all of the skin off, that way I can enjoy the whole bite without a tough peel leftover.
- Eggplant is like a sponge and soaks up everything! So don’t overdo it with the olive oil, a good drizzle or brush is enough.
- Speaking of, I often will salt the eggplant before cooking it. It helps draw out any excess moisture so it fry’s or roasts better with a more crispy exterior.
Ziti with Roasted Eggplant and Ricotta Cheese
- 1/2 lb ziti or penne
- 1 large eggplant or 2 medium-sized
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 32 oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Fresh basil
- Olive oil for drizzling
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Trim ends off eggplant and peel 1 inch sections off skin leaving half of skin intact. Place eggplant in colander and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt, tossing everything together and allow to drain for 15-20 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and place eggplant on foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Once done, set aside.
- While eggplant is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta and cook pasta according to package directions. (I always go about 1 minute less and check as I go).
- In a separate pot, over medium heat, drizzle with olive oil and add chopped garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes until just lightly golden. Add whole tomatoes, crushing them by hand as you add them in, with all their juices and the red pepper flakes and season with salt. Bring sauce to a gentle boil and then reduce for 10 minutes.
- When pasta is done, reserve about 1/2 cup of cooking water (I always save this just in case the pasta is too dry) then drain the pasta and add the pasta back into its pot.
- Then add in the tomato sauce and roasted eggplant and stir everything together. At this point you can either mix in heaping spoonfuls of ricotta cheese or serve the pasta with dollops of cheese on top.
- Once plated, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with grated Parmesan and fresh basil.