Rigatoni alla Disgraziata (Rigatoni with Eggplant & Bread Crumbs)

Rigatoni alla Disgraziata (Rigatoni with Eggplant & Bread Crumbs) (640x456)

From April 26, 2005:  This is one of my favorite eggplant dishes. The recipe originates from Sicily. Disgraziata means “a disgraced one” or “a poor wretch” and the name may derive from the fact that in impoverished Sicilian households, toasted bread crumbs were a substitute for the more expensive grated cheese.

I usually skip the salting of the eggplant part of this recipe….I think it makes the eggplant too squishy and I like to see the actual chunks of eggplant and to be able to bite into it.  I also have a hard time finding Ricotta Salata (and when I do it’s like $13 a pound!) so I usually use mozzarella…not the same, but still delicious!  You can use feta cheese or even queso fresco instead of Ricotta Salata (which IS NOT the same as ricotta cheese you get in a tub next to the sour cream at the grocery store). This recipe makes a big batch of food and luckily it freezes well.rigatoni

Rigatoni alla Disgraziata (Rigatoni with Eggplant and Bread Crumbs)

2 medium Italian eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1 ” cubes (Japanese eggplants can also be used, you’ll need about 4) – you don’t have to peel them
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 pound rigatoni
2 cups of red sauce (your favorite spaghetti sauce)
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated Ricotta Salata (feta can be used as a substitution, mozzarella could also be used)

Put eggplant into a a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, then set aside to drain for 1 hour.  Rinse, then pat eggplant dry with paper towels.

Heat 2 T. of extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Wipe out skillet, add enough olive oil to coat bottom, and heat over medium-high.  Add half of the eggplant and cook, stirring often, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes (sometimes I have to add a bit more olive oil to the pan if the eggplant is sticking to the bottom).  Transfer eggplant with a slotted spoon to a large bowl and season to taste with salt.  Add a little more olive oil to the pan and repeat process with remaining eggplant.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat until just tender.  Put red sauce and red pepper flakes into a small pot ans warm over medium heat, about 5 minutes.  Drain pasta and add to bowl with eggplant.  Add warmed red sauce, Ricotta Salata, and bread crumbs and toss well.  Serve sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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