From Jamie’s Italy
2 large firm aubergines
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
optional: 1 dried red chilli, crumbled
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, stalks finely chopped, leaves reserved
1 teaspoon good herb or white wine vinegar
2 x 400g tins of good-quality chopped plum tomatoes, or 565ml/1 pint passata
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
455g/1lb dried spaghetti
150g/5½oz salted ricotta, pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated
1. First of all, get your nice firm aubergines and cut them into quarters lengthways. If they’ve got seedy fluffy centres, remove them and chuck them away. Then cut the aubergines across the length, into finger-sized pieces. Get a large non-stick pan nice and hot and add a little oil. Fry the aubergines in two batches, adding a little extra oil if you need to (but you don’t want to make it too greasy). Give the aubergines a toss so the oil coats every single piece and then sprinkle with some of the dried oregano – this will make them taste fantastic. Using a pair of tongs, turn the pieces of aubergine until golden on all sides. Once you’ve done the first batch, remove to a plate and do the same with the second batch.
2. When the aubergines are all cooked, add the first batch back to the pan – at this point I sometimes add a sneaky dried red chilli, but that’s my addiction coming through so feel free to ignore this! Turn the heat down to medium and add a little oil, the garlic and the basil stalks. Stir so everything gets evenly cooked, then add a swig of herb vinegar and the tins of tomatoes, which you can chop or whiz up so they’re not too chunky. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Tear up half the basil leaves, add to the sauce and toss around.
3. Get your spaghetti into a pan of salted boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. When it’s al dente, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and put it back into the pan. Add the Norma sauce and a little of the reserved cooking water and toss together back on the heat. Taste the pasta and adjust the seasoning, then divide between your plates by twizzling the pasta into a ladle for each portion. Any sauce left in the pan can be spooned over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining basil leaves and the grated cheese and drizzle with olive oil.
I used to hate aubergines especially after I had this piece of grilled aubergine at Rhodes Island, Greece; it was tasteless, gooey and just downright disgusting. However, through the years I realised that there is one way of cooking aubergines that I am alright with, which is to cook it with tomatoes until it has partially dissolved into the sauce. I first tried something like that in the Beeston Charcoal Grill. This recipe is something like that except that it’s of course a pasta sauce.