Corkscrew Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato and Anchovies

A spoonful of minced anchovies can deepen the flavor of a tomato sauce without making it taste strong or fishy. In this sauce, they add a savory background note; I can’t keep my tasting spoon out of the pan. From Four Seasons Pasta by Janet Fletcher (Chronicle Books)

  • 1 pound Asian or Italian eggplant
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of hot pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, grated (see Note below0
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 6 to 8 anchovy fillets, minced to a paste
  • 1 pound cavatappi, fusilli or penne rigate

Cut the unpeeled eggplant into 3/4-inch dice. Put it in a sieve set over the sink and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Toss well with your hands, then let stand for 1 hour, tossing once or twice more. Pat dry on paper towels (no need to rinse first).

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the eggplant. (If necessary, fry the eggplant in batches to avoid overcrowding the skillet.) Cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is nicely browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes to the skillet and let sizzle until the garlic starts to color. Add the tomatoes and the oregano, crushing the herb between your fingers to release its fragrance. Bring to a simmer, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the sauce is thick, smooth and flavorful, 15 to 20 minutes. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water occasionally to loosen the sauce and help soften the tomatoes. Remove from the heat and stir in the anchovies and the eggplant. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot over low heat. Add the sauce and toss gently so as not to break up the eggplant, moistening with some of the reserved pasta water as needed. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Note: To grate tomatoes, halve them lengthwise, then grate the flesh on the coarse holes of a box grater until only the skin remains in your hand. Discard the skin.

Serves 4 to 6