This rich and tasty vegetarian rigatoni pasta alla parmigiana recipe from Southern Italy is made with the same ingredients as eggplant parmigiana and tastes just as wonderful!
Cut the eggplant into thick slices and cover with sea salt in a colander. Leave them for about 30 minutes. Rinse off the salt and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Fry the eggplant slices in hot olive oil until they are quite golden on each side. Set aside on kitchen paper to allow most of the oil to get absorbed by the paper. Then cut most of the slices into cubes/pieces, leaving one or two slices per person intact. Keep these warm.
Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves (if using). Drain and cut the mozzarella into small cubes/pieces. Peel the garlic cloves.
Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a deep frying pan or skillet. Add the garlic and cook until it starts to soften. Add the cherry tomatoes cook them for a minutes then add the passata and chopped basil. Stir well and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Then remove the garlic.
In the meantime, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil. Bring to the boil again and add the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. When the pasta is ready, save a cup of the cooking water and drain.
If the tomato sauce seems too thick add some of the saved pasta water and stir. Add the eggplant pieces to the tomato sauce. Mix together well and then add the drained pasta. Mix again and add the mozzarella pieces. Cook for a bit over a low heat until the mozzarella starts to melt slightly.
Put one or two whole eggplant slices onto a plate. Place a serving of the pasta on top of the eggplant slices. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of chopped basil and grated Parmesan.
This recipe can be made with other short pasta tubes such as penne or tortiglioni.
You can finish this dish off in the oven. Put the pasta mixed with the tomato sauce, eggplant pieces and mozzarella pieces in a greased oven dish. Cover the top with more mozzarella slices (if you want) and grated Parmesan. Bake in a preheated oven at 180° until the top is browned and crispy.