Summer Entertaining 2000: Mother Cooks Best

  Cavatelli With Oven-Roasted Eggplant, Tomatoes, Basil, and Ricotta Salata

The Chef
LIDIA BASTIANICH of Felidia and Becco

Serves eight.

1 cup freshly made bread crumbs (preferably two-day-old country bread, ground in a food processor)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups red and yellow cherry tomatoes
2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 and 1/2 pounds dried cavatelli or cavatappi
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 ounces ricotta salata

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss bread crumbs, thyme, crushed red pepper, 2 tablespoons of Pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Place the cherry tomatoes in a single layer on a baking pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and season to taste with salt. Toss until the tomatoes are covered with oil. Sprinkle the seasoned bread crumbs over the tomatoes, and bake in the oven for about 7 minutes or until the tomatoes start to crack and the bread crumbs are crisp and toasted.

Lay the eggplant slices on an oiled baking sheet, and brush with 2 tablespoons of oil and salt to taste. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, turning them once when they're golden on one side. Remove and set aside. When they're cool, cut into 1-inch cubes.

In the meantime, bring 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet, add the garlic, and sauté until golden. Add the chicken stock (be careful: it may splatter), and bring to a vigorous boil; add salt to taste and a pinch of crushed red pepper.

Cook the pasta for 5 to 7 minutes, until al dente. Drain the pasta, add to the skillet, and sauté with the garlic. Add the tomatoes, bread crumbs (do not add the crumbs sticking to the pan if they are burnt or mushy), and eggplant, toss together gently, then quickly stir in the remaining Pecorino Romano and basil. Serve with freshly grated salted ricotta on top.