Eggplant Rotini and Peppers

1 large eggplant
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds (optional)
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 cans (each 19 ounces) tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
7 cups rotini pasta (1 pound)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cut eggplant into generous 1/4-inch thick slices; place in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss; let stand for 15 minutes. Using towels, wipe off salt and pat slices dry; cut into quarters.

In large shallow Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat; fry eggplant, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender, about 8 minutes.

Add yellow pepper, pine nuts (if using), garlic and hot pepper flakes; fry, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, breaking up with spoon; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thick enough to mound on spoon, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until tender but firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Add sauce to pot along with parsley; toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cold. Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours.)

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