Pasta Alla Norma

This was submitted by Barbara Ewalt
(This classic Italian dish is said to have been created in the 1800s after the opening night of Bellini's opera Norma.) Makes 6 servings. (Note: ricotta salata is a salted, dry ricotta cheese, available at some supermarkets, Italian markets, and specialty foods stores.)

2 mediumeggplants (about 1 pound each), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbspcoarse kosher salt plus additional for cooking pasta
5 Tbspextra-virgin olive oil
1 Cchopped onion
4garlic cloves, minced
8 (or more)small peperoncino, minced
2 cans14 1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
1 lbspaghetti
1 Ctorn fresh basil leaves
1 Ccrumbled ricotta salata or whole milk ricotta

1. Place eggplant cubes in colander and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Let eggplant drain 15 minutes. Pat dry, removing excess salt.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add peperoncini and tomatoes with juice. Cook until tomatoes begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Remove tomato sauce from heat.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in another heavy large skillet over high heat. Working in 3 batches and adding 1 tablespoon olive oil for each batch, cook eggplant until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to tomato sauce in skillet.
4. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water. Add reserved cooking water to sauce and bring to boil. Add spaghetti and basil to sauce and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to bowl. Top with ricotta salata and serve.