- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 Vidalia or Spanish onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups marinara sauce or tomato puree*
- 1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
- 1 pound rigatoni (I used meze)
- 10 basil leaves, torn
- ½ pound perlinis (or chopped fresh mozzarella)
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- In the meantime, set a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, about 2 tablespoons. Add the eggplant, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the eggplant is tender, but not falling apart. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 more minutes.
- Pour the tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes over the eggplant mixture and stir to combine. Simmer gently until the acidity of the tomatoes has burned off, and the eggplant is soft and falling apart, about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as necessary.
- In a small non-stick pan, toast the breadcrumbs with a little bit of olive oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and add to the pan with the pasta sauce. Add the basil leaves (reserving one or two for garnish) and the perlinis (or chopped mozzarella) and toss to combine.
- Spoon the pasta into serving bowls and top each with a tablespoon of breadcrumbs and parmesan. Garnish with torn basil leaves, and serve immediately.