Rigatoni Alla Norma

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12 japanese eggplants, or 3 medium globe eggplants
12 cloves garlic, minced fine
18 large black olives
36 leaves fresh basil
about 1/4 cup olive oil, enough to sauté the eggplants
2 1/2 to 3 cups rich tomato sauce
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound rigatoni
grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese

1. Slice the Japanese eggplants into 1/4-inch thick slices. If you are using regular eggplants, peel them and cut them into 1-inch cubes, or slightly larger.

2. Pit and quarter the olives.

3. Cut the basil leaves into very thin strips.

4. Drop the rigatoni into a large pot of boiling salted water.

5. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick sauté pan (or two pans if you don't have a very large one that will hold all of the eggplants in one batch). Fry the eggplant pieces quickly so that they brown but don't steam. Turn them once. Add the garlic, olives, most of the basil and tomato sauce. Heat the sauce and season it with salt and pepper. Keep the sauce warm.

6. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss with the eggplant sauce. Sprinkle with a little more basil and some grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese. Serve immediately.

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