I read through quite a few recipes, before sort of combining Jamie Oliver's concept with one I found on epicurious.com. Many of the recipes want breading, and a complicated eggplant preparation technique - I decided to favor the simplest preparation of eggplant -cubing, salting, frying, and sprinkling with oregano, a quick toss of cooked with my homemade marinara (which I always have extra frozen in the fridge) and then layering of really delicious burrata (fresh mozarella with a cream center...YUM) on top. The result was magnificent and not that hard to make.
Pasta alla Norma
2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 medium onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or use 24 to 26 ounce bottled sauce)
1 pound dried rigatoni or penne pasta
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoon salt in a colander. Drain 30 minutes. Rinse, then squeeze out excess liquid and pat dry.
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.Printable recipe
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry eggplant in 3 batches, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Spinkle and toss warm eggplant with dried oregano.
Discard all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then sauté onion with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in sauce and eggplant and simmer 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 6 quart water) until al dente, then drain. (basically cook pasta for 1 minute less than you would normally in order that it doesn't turn into total mush during baking.) Stir together pasta, sauce, and half of mozzarella in pot. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melted and golden in spots, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
**An additional note for those whose family are "sauce lovers" - the tomato sauce does get absorbed into the pasta, so those who like things saucy may complain about the lack of sauce - just have on the side extra marinara sauce.