4 to 6 servings (makes about 1 2/3 cups sauce, enough for 1 pound/half a kgof pasta)
For a dairy-free option, substitute freshly toasted bread crumbs - tossed with a little oil and baked at 400 degrees until golden brown - for the cheese.
If you won't be serving all the pasta right away, consider saucing as much as you need and saving some sauce for another meal. It will reheat well over low heat and can be used with fregola or even a whole grain such as sorghum. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
One 340g eggplant (unpeeled), cut into 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch by 3-inch strips
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
1 pound/half a kg ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced (see NOTE)
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano, or more as needed
12 basil leaves, torn
1 pound/half a kg dried bucatini (or substitute penne rigate, rigatoni or orecchiette)
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, for serving
Heat the oil in a wide, deep-sided saute pan over medium-low heat.
Add the garlic and cook, 30 seconds, then add the eggplant, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper.
Partially cover and cook for 25 minutes, stirring often, or until soft, allowing the liquid from the lid to drip into the eggplant if it seems dry.
Use a fork to crush the eggplant in the pan to a chunky consistency, then add the tomatoes and the teaspoon of fresh oregano.
Increase the heat to medium; cook uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, until the sauce is thick (the cooking time will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are).
Stir in the basil and keep the sauce warm.
Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add the bucatini and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook according to the package directions (al dente), about 8 minutes.
Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce in the pan, and add just enough of the reserved pasta cooking water to create a sauce that coats the bucatini.
Taste, and add more salt and/or pepper and oregano, as needed.
Serve hot, dusted with the cheese.
To peel the tomatoes, use a sharp knife to score a large X on the bottom of each one.
Drop into a bowl of just-boiled water and let sit for a few minutes, until you see the peel curling back from the edges of the X.
Drain and let cool, then peel and discard the loosened skin.
Adapted from a recipe in "Rustico," by Micol Negrin